I’ve been doing fraud and identity theft presentations for adults and high school and middle school students for several years now, but recently I realized I’d never presented to elementary school-aged kids, and had nothing prepared if the opportunity would arise.
Kids need to know this stuff, too. Sure we can all say, “Well, the parents shouldn’t let them on a computer without constant supervision in the first place,” but that’s not how it generally works in reality. Kids end up downloading things and talking to strangers and everything in between, and they work fast. You look away for five minutes because staring at a kid playing Minecraft in the name of “constant supervision” is one of the most boring things human beings are capable of doing, and suddenly your browser’s homepage has been hijacked and some weirdo knows your phone number.
So they need to learn, but what to tell them, and how to present it in a way they’ll understand?
I’ve been working on those questions while trying to come up with a fraud prevention presentation for the elementary school crowd, or at least the 3rd through 5th grade set. I’ve narrowed down a few things that I think are important:
1. Everything you see online was put there by a person
Kids trust everything and everyone. When they go online, they assume everything exists by benevolent magic. Show them a “Click here for free _____!” popup with Mario on it and they’re going to install anything it asks them to. What they need to understand is that everything they see was made by a person they don’t know and can’t see, and that not every one of those people are good. People lie because they make money tricking children.
2. Popup windows are not to be trusted
A popup window is probably bad news, especially if it offers free games, powerups for games, or prizes. Kids will accept anything if you tell them it’s a prize. Ask the tiny blue plastic mug I won at the school carnival in 1984. I still had that thing five years later.
3. A “virus” is a type of program that hurts your computer, phone or tablet
I’m still working on how to explain this one, but the gist is that the people who make things for you to download sometimes hide other programs inside it, and these can hurt your computers and devices, or even steal money from you.
4. Keep your passwords secret!
Parents need to know their kids’ passwords, but the kids need to know NOT to let anyone else know them. Not even their best friend. Not someone who asks for it really nicely. Nobody.
So this is a work in progress right now, but those four points seem like something a kid would be able to understand if explained properly. I’m sure I’ll rework some of these and add to it, but it’s a starting point.