There's no question that children and teens are vulnerable to a wide range of online threats, from cyber-bullying to phishing scams. The average child receives their first smartphone at 10.3 years old, according to a 2016 survey, and 39 percent of children create their first social media account when they're 11. It's another question as to whether those kids are getting the right information they need to protect themselves.
HPE is partnering with the Girls Scouts to take on that challenge and equip girls with the knowledge they need to protect themselves online. With a new game and cybersecurity curriculum, they're also hoping to encourage more girls to consider careers in IT and cybersecurity.
The curriculum targets Junior Girl Scouts, who are 9- to 11-years old. ) It covers four areas: personal information and digital footprint, online safety, privacy and security, and cyberbullying. Girls that complete the program and game will receive a patch for their uniforms. It all ties into the Girl Scouts organization's longer-term pledge to bring 2.5 million girls into the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline by 2025.
HPE's Women in Cybersecurity employee resource group, which is dedicated to bringing more women into the field, helped with pro bono development of the game and curriculum.
"Making basic cybersecurity awareness at a young age is imperative, and as fundamental as safety skills in the physical world, like learning how to cross the street," HPE Chief Information Security Officer Liz Joyce said in a statement. "As someone who tackles cyber risks and crime by day and goes home to a young daughter at night, I know just how critical this education is."
To build the game, called Cyber Squad, HPE tapped the studio Romero Games. It uses an interactive, narrative format that takes players through real-life scenarios related to phishing, cyberbullying and online safety. To ensure the game's scenarios came across as authentic to young girls, Romero Games co-founder Brenda Romero turned to her 17-year-old daughter Maezza for help.
"During development, we worked with my 17-year-old daughter Maezza to write the narrative, making sure the situations, communication and issues facing girls were present in the game," Brenda Romero said in a statement. "For Maezza, having a chance to develop a game about important issues that young women face was a tremendous honour."
Currently the game is available via a web interface, and it will be launched across mobile and desktop platforms in the coming year. It will also launch as a printable board game for the Girl Scounts.
HPE worked with Girl Scouts Nation's Capital -- which serves 60,000 girls in the Greater Washington Region -- to launch the game and curriculum, with plans to bring it to other Girl Scouts councils as well as other youth organizations and markets in the future.