2 December, 2021

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Cyber-Security & The Digital Footprint Of Our Youth

By Gayanga Dissanayaka

Gayanga Dissanayaka

“Anyone can track us, and we are prone to hacking and loss of privacy” said a majority of university students when asked about the challenges they face on social media and on the internet. They also went on to say that they live in a “notification era” where digitalization of everything is very common in contrast to the bygone days.

CMIL conducted a training programme on digital citizenship and cyber-security last week in collaboration with the SDJF for university undergraduates with the intention of improving digital literacy and awareness of youngsters who are stepping into the future of a digitalized world. Over 100 participants joined the training and it was done with several interactive sessions and questionnaires including polls, games and other interesting tools that paved the way for students to engage actively and effectively with the trainers and each other on this topic.

Trainer MC Rasmin started off the session explaining about Digital Citizenship and how we can strive to become a responsible digital consumer. When asked about who a digital citizen is, some students misunderstood the term and said that a digital citizen is a person who is recognized as someone who engages with anything digital. This became the first learning point for the students as they were taught that a digital citizen is someone who is skilled in digital use and is extremely mindful about the safety of themselves and the others in cyberspace. After engaging the students in an online quiz on this topic, they became more educated and aware of this and were able to clear the confusions and doubts they initially had. Using apt examples and methods, they were also trained on how to be responsible digital citizens as individuals. Regarding being responsible digital citizens who understand and acknowledge different sexualities and gender sensitivity, a question was asked on the difference of gender identity and sexual identity to which around a same number of participants said that they were either two different concepts or that it’s very difficult to differentiate, which also cleared their doubts and taught them that sexual identity and gender identity are different. It was also discovered that a majority of students believed sex to be both social and biological when it’s only biological.

During the next session on cyber-security, the students were again asked to join a questionnaire in which a majority of students said that freedom of expression is a responsibility and not a right. And the same answer was given to online privacy. These were important teaching points as our trainers corrected these misconceptions and made them aware of the rights and responsibilities we have in the digital world. It was also discovered that a majority of students thought that keeping one’s online accounts safe from hackers and other security risks is a right whereas it’s a personal responsibility of the individual, which went on to show that many of these youngsters weren’t giving much personal thought on cyber-security. Taking this into consideration, they were trained on various tips and methods on how to assure one’s security on the internet. Some students also believed that the internet would not store the data of what we post and that our digital footprint can be cleared once we erase them from our browsing history which were both false. A few of the participants even said that by deleting something negative from the internet, the problems that have arisen will be solved, which raised concerns on the lack of understanding about cyberbullying and its effects. With the necessary training, the students were thus able to educate themselves on how to stop and handle cyber-bullying correctly and be more ethically conscious about their digital footprint. From another quiz they were able to answer correctly and say that the best way to prove that someone has been a victim of cyberbullying is to save the relevant screenshots that contain the harassment. They were also educated on the status of internet safety in Sri Lanka and how to take effective actions in order to stop putting their personal data on the line in cyberspace.

The students also raised their personal concerns about the digital world, bringing forth the fact that they have become digitally isolated in society because of filter bubbles and the polarization that has been created due to it. At the end of the training, students were well aware of their digital identity and cyber-security and kept raising questions on how to keep their data safe in various social media platforms and how to use other effective internet tools to keep themselves and the others risk-free in the digital world.

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