What is it about?

• Many children and teens now spend a lot of time online, exposing them to risks. This has made it essential for schools to teach cybersecurity and online safety. • There are many programmes and initiatives to teach children cyber security and online safety. Still, there is little evidence of how much schools participate in and promote these activities. • The paper aims to fill this gap by analysing nearly 200,000 public tweets from over 15,000 UK schools to gain insights into schools' engagement with cybersecurity and online safety education. • The researchers used descriptive statistics, data visualisation, sentiment analysis, and topic modelling on the Twitter data to identify findings and trends. • The results prove that data-driven approaches can provide valuable insights for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers interested in cyber security and online safety education for schools. In short, the paper examines UK schools' engagement with cyber security and online safety education programmes by analysing their Twitter data to gain insights that can help improve such education initiatives.

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Why is it important?

1. It highlights the need for schools to teach cyber security and online safety, given how much time children now spend online and the risks they face. Educating children in these areas can help protect them. 2. Despite many initiatives to teach children cyber security and online safety, there needs to be more evidence of how much schools participate in and promote these activities. The study aims to fill this gap. 3. The results provide insights that can help inform and improve cyber security and online safety education initiatives for schools. For example, the findings could help identify areas where more efforts are needed to engage schools or design programmes that schools are more interested in. 4. It demonstrates the potential of data-driven approaches using social media data to gain insights into issues traditionally studied using surveys and interviews. This could open up new avenues for research. 5. The trends and patterns identified from the large-scale Twitter data could provide a more holistic and objective view of schools' engagement compared to small-scale surveys, which are prone to biases. In summary, the research is essential because it: - Highlights the need for cyber security and online safety education for children - Fills a gap in evidence of schools' participation in such initiatives - Provides insights that can help improve education programmes in these areas - Shows the potential of using social media data for educational research - Uses a large-scale, objective data source to identify trends All of which can help make progress in protecting children online through better education in schools.


The findings suggest that while many initiatives exist to teach children cyber security and online safety, there is still work to be done to engage schools and maximise the full impact of these programmes. Many schools on Twitter, indicating little engagement, suggest an even more significant number of schools not on Twitter that may need to be made aware of or uninterested in such initiatives. This highlights the need for education authorities, non-profits, and technology companies to promote these programmes to rethink their outreach and communication strategies to target better and convince schools of the importance of cyber security and online safety education. More than simply launching programmes and hoping schools will participate is required. More proactive and tailored approaches may be needed. The Twitter data also shows that schools focus more on general online safety than specific cybersecurity topics. This suggests a need to design programmes that frame cybersecurity education in a way that schools find relevant and appealing, perhaps by emphasising the links to students' well-being and development. Overall, while the large-scale data used in the study is promising, more targeted research involving direct engagement with schools will be needed to understand the barriers to participation and design effective solutions. The Twitter data provides a high-level view of the current landscape but has limitations in explaining why schools are or are not engaging with these issues. In conclusion, the research highlights both the promise and challenges of cyber security and online safety education in schools. While initiatives exist, more must be done to convince schools of the importance and benefits of maximising the positive impact on students. With the right strategies and support, schools could play a more significant role in equipping the next generation with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate an increasingly digital world.

Dr Matthew Boakes
University of Kent

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Cyber Security and Online Safety Education for Schools in the UK: Looking through the Lens of Twitter Data, March 2023, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery),
DOI: 10.1145/3555776.3577805.
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