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Expert: Cyber Security Awareness Should Start Before Age 5

PHOTO: Savvy Cyber Kids materials in the classroom. The online teaching materials, and books for sale, help guide the youngest citizens on Internet safety, bullying response and ethics. Photo courtesy of Savvy Cyber Kids
PHOTO: Savvy Cyber Kids materials in the classroom. The online teaching materials, and books for sale, help guide the youngest citizens on Internet safety, bullying response and ethics. Photo courtesy of Savvy Cyber Kids
November 4, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Children are beginning to use technology at an increasingly younger age, so experts say privacy, bullying protection and online safety should be taught along with the ABCs and 1-2-3s. Ben Halpert is the founder of the nonprofit www.SavvyCyberKids.org. He said most safety education is focused on elementary to high school students, but it needs to start sooner because children these days start interacting with technology as toddlers.

"Five years old and younger is really the key point in a child's life. What you teach them there becomes ingrained in their minds, so it becomes more of a reflex," Halpert said.

Halpert pointed to an opportunity to raise a generation to understand online safety, security, ethics and appropriate responses to bullying. He also has produced picture books for parents to read to children that provide strategies for safety. The books feature two children who teach each other.

"The kids create an online identity as a superhero, and they use that online identity to protect themselves," he explained. "So, if anyone ever asks them 'What's your name?' or 'Where do you live?' as they grow up, they learn to respond only with their superhero identity that can't be traced back to them."

In addition to English, the books are available for purchase in Spanish, French and German. There also is a free tool kit available online to anyone at www.SavvyCyberKids.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO