As we’ve commented on the Panda Security blog  many times before, online safety is a combination of personal responsibility and training. Tools like Panda Security can help limit the effects of a malware infection – but your own level of knowledge can further reduce the opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage.

And this week Google has announced a series of courses to help improve understanding of online scams. Targeted at children, the “Be Internet Awesome” program is designed to ‘teach young people the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety’.

Technical challenges, dodgy content

Using a series of interactive exercises, activities and discussions, kids are introduced to the common online scams including phishing, identity theft, fake URLs and weak passwords. On a more personal level they will also learn about harassment and bullying, and how to identify fake news.

Once they understand the principles behind each of these topics, students will go on to learn about how best to manage them. How do you create a strong password? What should you do when you receive a phishing email? How do you report online bullying? All of these issues are addressed so that kids are properly equipped to keep themselves safe.

Changing mindsets

By improving ‘media literacy’, Google is aiming to help build a generation of responsible ‘netizens’, people able to build safe, secure, friendly communities online. People who are able to protect themselves from hackers and criminals.

A healthy community relies on trust – but online safety is built on a mild scepticism. By teaching kids not to believe everything they read, they are more likely to check sources and facts before believing – or repeating – the latest viral ‘news’ story.

According to Google, they want “to encourage kids to make checking news and information a habit—not only those headlines and links that seem suspicious.” By making fact checking an everyday part of using the internet, kids will quickly become very good at spotting scams.

Although the “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum is designed for kids, there’s nothing to stop anyone, including adults, studying the course. In fact, all of the training materials are available for free here.

Don’t forget the tech angle

No matter how good you get at spotting dodgy online content and scams, there is always a risk that hackers will break in through the backdoor somehow. To cover those ‘gaps’ you need a trustworthy anti-malware toolkit that can detect, disable and remove the exploits used to steal your data.

So as you (or your kids) work through the Be Internet Awesome course, you can protect yourself by downloading a free Panda Dome trial. This will help protect your computer, even after you complete your training.

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