Our global reliance on technology makes it imperative that we equip the younger generation with the skills they will need to step up and take on the challenge of saving the world from the cyber-attacks of the future. Thankfully, recent amendments to the UK's national curriculum, relating to the teaching of computing skills in schools, show that the government is taking note of the importance of this discipline in the modern world.
As a subject, Computing (previously ICT) will now include three distinct areas of study - computer science, digital skills and information technology - that are essential in a society that is now dependent on computers and the Internet. The role of security must not be downplayed. Our increased dependence on technology and the ever-growing online security threat go hand-in-hand. As well as teaching children computing skills, we must also ensure that they have a firm understanding of security - not least because of their wide use of connected devices.
Online safety is a vital factor at every stage of our children's education. Children use the Internet differently at different ages. Just as the way maths is taught varies from key stage 1 to key stage 4, cyber-security must be approached in a way that will be most meaningful to the life of children at different ages.
It's important to note that government has limited direct control over online security awareness among children of pre-school age. This is a concern especially as most children are now likely to use computers and smart devices from a very young age. So it's also important for government to educate parents, so that they have the necessary knowledge to guide their children's use of technology. Children also need to be taught about responsible use of technology. They need to develop a moral sense in interacting with other people online, to reduce the likelihood of them opting to engage in cybercrime. For example, we teach about real-world bullying, so online bullying should also be part of the curriculum.
However, understanding security is not only necessary to help our children stay safe online. It's also essential that they understand the importance of security when writing code and designing systems. If this isn't done, security will continue to be something that's retro-fitted only after a security loophole has been exploited by an attacker.
The key to success of the new Computing curriculum ultimately lies in how effective the teaching will be. It's essential that the government provides sufficient money to ensure that our teachers have the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver the new curriculum. We can only hope that the curriculum changes will enthuse children of all ages and inspire them to consider a computing career. With the start of the new term upon us, only time will tell!