Most students in our public (and private, for that matter) schools receive some sort of sex education. I choose to believe as a parent of four boys that our kids spend more time on the computer than they do having sex. Yet a recent study by Microsoft reported in Ars technica points to an utterly poor understanding of the risks we face online, suggesting that some Internet education is also in order for our kids.
The Microsoft study of 2482 American adults showed that 58% of those surveyed were completely naive about online threats including malware, scams, phishing, and the like.
17 percent of U.S. adults have fallen victim to an Internet scam. Worse yet, 81 percent of the victims admitted that they were at fault by opening e-mails or sending information to companies that seemed legitimate just because they had professional logos or recognizable names...of those that were aware, many had little knowledge about online threats. Either they have excellent spam filters and firewalls, or we have a bit of a problem on our hands."
Anecdotal evidence suggests that our students are not much better prepared than their adult counterparts. While they tend to be more adept at computing in general, they still have real difficulty distinguishing the wheat from the chaff online. How many of your students can actually distinguish a trojan on their computer from one in their sex ed class?
In many schools, a specific computing course is not a requirement for graduation. However, when computing utterly pervades our lives, it is inexcusable for students to leave school without a basic understanding of online safety. Incorporate in your health curriculum if you need to, but don't let your students join the majority of Americans blithely surfing the Net and sending money to Nigerian doctors.