GUEST ESSAY: Now more than ever, companies need to proactively promote family Online Safety

By Ellen Sabin

Cybersecurity training has steadily gained traction in corporate settings over the past decade, and rightfully so.

In response to continuing waves of data breaches and network disruptions, companies have made a concerted effort and poured substantial resources into promoting data security awareness among employees, suppliers and clients. Safeguarding data in workplace settings gets plenty of attention.

Related: Mock attack help schools prepare for hackers

However, the sudden and drastic shift to work-from-home and schooling-from-home settings has changed the ball game. The line between personal and professional use of digital tools and services, which was blurry even before the global pandemic, has now been obliterated by Covid-19.

Moving forward, companies can no longer afford to focus awareness training on just employees, partners and clients. It has become strategically important for them to promote best security practices in home settings, including the training of children.

Bringing smart habits into homes and minds is good for kids, good for parents, and, it turns out, good for businesses, too.

We’re all connected

Consider that kids are constantly connected on the internet with online games, streaming devices, virtual schooling, and zoom play dates. Adults increasingly are working from home, and usually on networks they share with their children. Mistakes online by one family member can lead to compromises in a household’s network, placing computers, personal data, and perhaps even work-related content at risk.

Cyber criminals have increased attacks as they see these opportunities. Companies must take this into account and consider extending employee training to also promote security and privacy habits among all family members, especially children.

Research shows that children develop many habits, both good and bad, during their elementary school years. It also shows that the earlier you introduce good habits, the more likely they will stick for years to come. Cybersecurity education for kids is therefore a smart investment.

Investing in the future

Sabin

We know that we will need many more experts in cybersecurity than we are currently grooming. Engaging children at a young age to find interest, comfort, and motivation toward this field is essential for our businesses and for our nation.

In the meantime, one of the best ways to connect with adults, whether they are employees, contractors or clients, is to do something of value for a beloved child. Adults often don’t know where to start when teaching children about smart online habits, even though they know it’s an important part of keeping their children safe. Companies can give them tools to accomplish this goal that’s important to them. 

Kids make great “Trojan Horses” to bring habits into households. Social science research demonstrates that one of the most effective ways to change behavior among adults is to motivate actions through the children in their lives. Want an adult to wear a seat-belt? Stop smoking? Recycle? Teach the children around them the importance of these actions. Adults are motivated to learn more, engage more, and model better behaviors if they feel it will support the wellbeing of their children. By taking a multi-generational approach to workforce security education programs, companies can strengthen their security postures to thrive in a changing landscape, while also supporting families.

Cybersecurity education programs that target families are smart, cost-effective, and serve corporate goals.

Tools and approaches

Companies can promote family online safety with family-focused materials, events, and outreach.

Do you have a corporate book club? Send gifts to clients? Host virtual events? Offer employee perks? Consider child-focused educational books, games, movies, or virtual events that can enroll adults along with their children on the topic of security education to make it a family affair.

Family-focused events will also engage both generations. For workforce efforts, consider ways you can tie cyber education into your existing programs and channels. Organize a presentation with an internal or external speaker with ‘tips for raising cyber smart kids” at relevant ERG meetings, or incorporate the topic into “Take Your Child to Work Day” or ‘Cybersecurity Awareness Month’ events. For client-facing efforts, drive foot traffic or media attention with family-focused educational events in your community.

Want to show thought leadership? Give back to community?  Inspire the next generation to learn the basics or even open their eyes to the exciting careers in cybersecurity?  Incorporate security education into corporate volunteer or mentoring programs. Share talent, time, and educational content with your nonprofit and community partners.

My book, The Super Smart Cyber Guide for Kids, has been shared by CISOs, Security Awareness professionals, HR and Marketing executives to bring conversations about cybersecurity into the homes and minds of their employees, clients, and community partners.

I’ve also been brought in to host Virtual Reading Events with the book for corporate programs. Watering Can Press offers the e-book, as well as printed versions for bulk orders, and creates customized editions for organizations. If interested in learning more email [email protected].

About the essayist. Ellen Sabin is the founder of Watering Can Press (www.wateringcanpress.com) and the author of a series of award-winning books that “grow kids with character.”  Sabin holds a master’s degree in public health from Harvard and in Health Administration from NYU, studied medical anthropology at The London School of Economics, and has a BA from Emory University. Her book, The Super Smart Cyber Guide for Kids, has been recommended by top cybersecurity experts including Patricia Titus, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Markel Corporation, and former CISO at Symantec; Keith Alexander, former Director at NSA, and Commander, US Cyber Command; John Pistole, former Deputy Director, FBI; Ed Amoroso, former Chief Security Officer at AT&T; and Suzanne Spaulding, Former DHS Undersecretary for Cyber and Infrastructure. 

 

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