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Cyber Security Awareness Month - Day 15 - What Teachers Need to Know About Their Students

Published: 2010-10-15
Last Updated: 2010-10-15 20:35:40 UTC
by Marcus Sachs (Version: 1)
9 comment(s)

Today's cyber security awareness month topic looks at the problem through the eyes of the teacher.  For most students, their teachers are not just people well versed in economics, mathematics, science, or history.  They also serve as mentors, role models, and confidants to their students and are expected to be able to demonstrate their vast knowledge of how to conduct one's self in today's society.  Unfortunately for many educators, especially those who are a bit advanced in their years, this new thing called the Internet has created a very large divide between students and their teachers, often leaving the teacher with little understanding of how to integrate their students' online experience into the classroom, the playground, homework, and extracurricular activities.

There are many resources online with ideas for teachers in terms of teaching cyber security ethics and etiquette to their students.  For example, see


But what we need to ask is "what should teachers know about their students?"  Being a parent with both of my daughters out of school and on their own (OK, my youngest is in grad school...) I have many years of experience watching the divide between them and their teachers as they were growing up.  Here are some of my observations, known to many of their teachers but completely unknown to others:

  • Homework is often done in collaboration with other classmates via online chat rooms, even if told to do it alone
  • Wikipedia is more valid as a research tool than the school library
  • In chat rooms and social media sites students can be very vicious with their comments about other students, their teachers, and their schools
  • Access to computers and the Internet is everywhere, and when told that they cannot use the Internet they will find a way to do so
  • There is little respect for authority while online, causing some students to routinely break laws that they would not dare to do in the physical world (for example, theft of intellectual property via file-sharing sites, or accessing pornography that is restricted to adults over the age of 18)
  • Students have created sites such as where they discuss and "rate" their schools and teachers

I know that the list above is more focused on the dark side of what "digital students" are thinking and doing, but there are certainly many good things that the Internet brings which were not available to us when we were growing up.  So now it's your turn - use the "comment" link below to add your own observations about what teachers should know about their students when it comes to online behavior.  It doesn't matter if you are a teacher, a student, a parent, or a friend, let us know what you are seeing and hearing.  And while talking about the bad stuff students do is useful for awareness, we also would like to hear about the good things they are doing, too!

Marcus H. Sachs
Director, SANS Internet Storm Center

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