Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

Summary: Children are not aware of, or choose to ignore issues of data privacy and protection, in exchange for flashy free services like social networks.


Freedom of information, user privacy and data protection: three things most of the younger generation do not care about.

Those three things alone, in any sentence, even including the words "Harry Potter" and "Facebook", will all but guarantee to bore the trousers off anyone under the age of 18.

But these 'boring' considerations to our online lives are barely considered by younger people, who frivolously exchange their personal data to web services without knowing the possible consequences.

Last week, the UK's data protection agency, said that children should know about their rights regarding data protection and online privacy.

I couldn't agree more -- but it falls back down to poor education. Kids are being taught to write documents in Word and create flashy presentations in PowerPoint, and not about the crucial workings of the web that keeps most of the internet 'free'.

Ask yourself this: why are so many services free? What do they get out of it in return? Your personal data, which you own or generate through uploads and status updates, is the new world currency.

People nowadays, on the most part, do not realise the implications of handing over personally identifiable information. Your date of birth, for one, is a crucial marker to allow access to all kinds of accounts -- and will all but certainly be used by someone else for their phone password or bank account access code.

Data theft is one of the most common kinds of cybercrime and people can spend years rebuilding their lives after their identities have been stolen.

Personal data has been exposed, lost or stolen hundreds, if not thousands of times this year alone; only a small proportion of which are reported about in the press. This sensitive personally identifiable information can be used to exploit money or goods, and many simply shrug their shoulders and think, "so what?".

Generational parallels is apparent here, with older users being generally more aware of their data, but finding the increasing risk of online cybercrime something difficult to contend with. Yet, younger users are generally better equipped to understand the vast number of risks out there, but are foolhardy in handing out their personally identifiable data.

Teachers in schools, therefore, will struggle to teach a subject they only know half of, as they deal with the overlapping knowledge circles.

Teenagers and "tweens" today, who subscribe to email services to social networking sites, are openly handing their data to service providers and advertisers. From here, detailed metrics are being collected and examined to determine what people like, when they are most likely to want it, and pushed options to how to get it.

This alone on the face of it sounds like a 'helpful' invasion of privacy; something most of us would live with but only if we get something out of it. Of course, this diatribe could go on and on, discussing "surveillance society" and whatnot, but the salient facts remain.

Children and teenagers should be taught data protection rights and rules, to not only prevent lapses of their own security, but to maintain a sense of privacy for their own future.

Because, it will not be long before we as individuals begin to understand and fully visualise exactly how much data is held on us, and how damaging third-party providers could find this when the lawsuits start rolling in.

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Topics: Legal, Data Centers, Data Management, Storage

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  • What do you think?

    Should data protection principles be taught in school? Should the core curriculum include how to keep children's data safe, and best practices for use of modern day social networks? <b>Have your say.</b>
    • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

      @zwhittaker Absolutely, in addition, schools need tobe required tp teach general troubleshooting and logic. Not necessarily directly related to technology, but skills that can cross boundaries. I know you can't teach common sense, but a little logic will go a long way to helping children growing up in our ever technology driven world.
  • Message has been deleted.

  • Surviving the 21st Century

    I'd agree that they probably should be taught about such things. But it's tough to teach kids about such abstract consequences that usually take place far in the future.

    Considering that our schools fail to teach such basic knowledge for survival items like how to balance a checking account or the benefits and perils of compound interest, I don't see how they will successfully deal with tech issues like this when most teachers hardly comprehend them.
    • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

      @JohnMcGrew@... Just be aware that teachers these days have to teach the kids many things that parents should have taught them; you can't blame it all on the teachers. After all, it would appear that our finance ministers also don't understand how to balance the books or compound interest either - hence the poor state of the country's finances.
      • @tony@, you are correct. And I don't exclusively blame the teachers.

        It is ultimately the parent's responsibility, which makes teaching kids in a school setting about the long-term implications of social media even less likely to be worthwhile.
  • Sure - they know their other rights

    As a relative of teachers, they all tell me that the kids know their rights, down to how long they can be kept in detention, and that after school detention is not allowed if they travel by bus.

    But these "rights" are what they are entitled to. The "rights" that you are referring to require some thought and responsibility on their part, so it is quite possible that they would be as interested in those "rights" just like they are interested in advanced algebra.

    But a warning to parents - don't think that because your kids let you be friends with them on Facebook, all is well; it may not be - most kids have two or more Facebook accounts and you only know about the sanitised one.
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    I would definitely say some level of teaching of these matters should be started from about 8 years old and be retouched upon every few years to ensure they hear it repeatedly, and get the most up to date laws taught to them during their school lives.
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    More and more these days, schools require our students to use computers and the internet for homework, research and obtaining instructions from school web sites. I believe our schools should require students to take data protection and user privacy classes and should not be the responsibility of the parents. Yes, many of us parent can teach our children these important skills (and do) but there are many parents of that do not have the common PP skills to teach their children, and is why this subject is an issue not only for our children but for many adults.
  • Not only in schools but

    in every business school including Harvard. Time to get people to understand privacy and the importance of keeping yours and my personal information secure.
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    Data privacy should be taught at school, especially if they are going to require computer classes to young students and require homework to be done online.

    Parents and also grandparents who are raising children should also be required to have some technical training with computers so that they can properly supervise the children at what they are doing. No matter what the age is.

    If a child is doing something wrong over the computer or online, that needs to be supervised. Also, a child's computer should be in the family room and not in their bedrooms so that it can be supervised. This is also true with copyright infringement claims coming in. When they reach the teen years, they should also know the laws that pertain to computer usage, privacy rights and copyright infringements.

    But, again, the parents need to supervise the children at what they are doing.
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    It should be mandatory starting in junior high. Elementary is too young.
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    There's a catch 22 here. Kids should be allowed to be kids and not worry about this stuff, so it's the parents' job. <br><br>The parents have been marginalized out of childrens' lives by facebook, and texting. Most parents have no clue what their kids are up to online. Even fewer know anything about online security.<br><br>So, it's up to the schools to take on the job that would have been a parent's job in a previous generation. However, the kids won't listen in school. Data security is boring. Can the schools find people who understand the issues, stay on top of a moving target like online security and, most importantly, get the kids to care?
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    I work for one of the largest school districts in the US and all our labs are set up so that teacher is in the middle of a circle or horseshoe and can watch all the screens simultaneously. All machines are networked thru a main server which has a filter on it, not allowing full access to all sites. Every employee must sign an agreement for proper usage of the internet. Every user must log in as themselves and all actions are tracked. Further, every student machine must have a program called "Deepfreeze" installed on it. Deepfreeze resets the machine back to the original way it was by doing a restart. Students are NEVER given admin rights to a computer. Kids love to dink, and most teachers aren't THAT aware of what's going on. Kids are taught that vandalism is wrong and computer hardware vandalism is dealt with by getting the city police involved. (The police are now stationed inside our high schools.) Being an educational institution, we have a lot of Mac equipment, but even more PC's, with Windows being the OS installed on those. The machines that gobble up 90% of the tech's time are MS PC's, malware and viruses being the big concern.. Mac's never need to be messed with in that way. All machines require updates and software installation and more and more cloud application is being used by curriculum programs. Google alone has saved this district hundreds of thousands of dollars with the new use of "Google Doc's". Imagine how much ($$$) MS was getting having Office installed on each machine for Outlook, Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for example. All of that is now free, thanks to Google, not to mention that homework is saved to the cloud so that the student can work on docs etc, at home just as easily.
    Mr. Science
  • RE: Should data protection and user privacy be taught in schools?

    Yes, data protection and user privacy should be taught in schools and at home.