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Should children be taught cybersecurity in KS1?

Published by: Twinkl Educational Publishing, October 2021

Should children be taught cybersecurity in KS1?

A report conducted by CHILDWISE has found that most children own a mobile phone by the age of 7, and findings from Natterhub reveal that 70% of children use online messaging as their main form of communication . This has caused some to call for cybersecurity education to begin in Key Stage 1.

The majority of children own a mobile phone by the age of seven, according to the CHILDWISE Monitor Report. Commenting on the report, Simon Leggett, Research Director at CHILDWISE said that the report also found that: 

  • The number of 5-10 year olds owning their own mobile phone increased in 2020
  • Around 67% of children now have their own mobile phone
  • The age at which children are accessing mobile phones is decreasing
  • The amount of time that 7 year olds are spending on mobile phones has ‘gone up by almost an hour a day’
  • In 2019, 38% of 5-10 year olds had a mobile phone, this rose to 47% in 2020


When should cybersecurity education begin?

The findings from this report has caused some to call for cybersecurity education to begin in Key Stage 1. Reef Pearson, a correspondent for SecureTeam (an information security practice, specialising in cybersecurity) states that educating KS1 children in cybersecurity is necessary to ‘encourage a safe, tech-literate generation’.

Society today is highly dependent on technology. This dependence has been deepened by the pandemic. A 2021 report by Natterhub found that 70% of children use online messaging as their main form of communication with friends, and 43% of children under the age of 8 have accessed social media. Reef Pearson highlights that responsibility needs to be taken for ‘best serving’ children who are living in this technology dependent world. However, difficulties are faced as many see technology and cybersecurity as ‘too complex a subject to teach’. The responsibility for educating children on cybersecurity also often involves a ‘passing of blame between teachers and parents’. She calls for educating bodies to ‘take responsibility for the learned behaviour of children online to ensure consistent, relevant and high-quality education’, in a world so dependent on technology this needs to be as important as teaching children to read and write. 

What cybersecurity scams might children in KS1 be exposed to? 

The pandemic saw a rise in cases and reports of people being affected by digital fraud. Even adults well versed in online safety fell victim to scams in which major companies such as Royal Mail, Netflix and Amazon were impersonated. With children owning and operating mobile phones of their own they could be accessed by scammers. Reef Pearson states that, ‘it shouldn’t take children falling victim to phishing attempts, catfishing or account hacks for the government to realise the severity of the risks of uninformed internet and smartphone usage in minors.’ 

Natterhub warns that children may become victims of phishing scams. These scams are often targeted at children in the form of: 

  • Emails claiming to be from a celebrity offering or asking for help 
  • Messages claiming the child has won a prize

The NSPCC list the following as scams likely to be targeted at children: 

  • Emails or pop-ups offering 'free' in-game currency on platforms such as Fortnite, Roblox and Fifa
  • Fake account suspension emails for online games 
  • Emails containing ‘free games’ to download
  • Trading and borrowing scams - ‘some games allow players to trade and borrow virtual items and then, when the traded or borrowed item has been received, not trade back or not return the item’


What guidance is available for educating children about cybersecurity?

Concerns have been raised over the lack of cybersecurity guidance provided by the government for children in Key Stage 1. Guidance focuses on educating teachers on how to protect children rather than educating children themselves. 

What does the curriculum say about cybersecurity? 

One aim of the national curriculum for computing is for all children to become ‘responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology’. In Key Stage 1 specifically children should be taught to:

  • Use technology safely and respectfully
  • Keep personal information private
  • Identify where to go for help and support when they have concerns about what they have seen or heard on the internet 

The government guidance for teaching online safety in schools points teachers in the direction of the Education for a Connected World Framework. This framework is broken down into age brackets and topic strands. Cybersecurity is not addressed directly in this framework. The opportunity for cybersecurity to be addressed for 4-7 year olds is presented in the managing online information strand: ‘I can explain why some information I find online may not be real or true’. And, in the privacy and security strand: ‘I can explain how passwords can be used to protect information, accounts and devices’.

Government guidance for teaching children how to be safe online has been criticised for neglecting educating children about:

  • How much information they should share about themselves on social media
  • The inability to truly take something back that has been said or shared online

Reef Pearson thinks that ‘this form of cybersecurity that’s being neglected’, and educating children about this is essential for the protection of children who have a whole life online ahead of them. Instead, government guidance is viewed as focussing on teaching children about data protection. While this is important ‘it should be integrated with basic safety guidance and education on simply navigating the internet’. 


What could a cybersecurity education include? 

Reef Pearson makes the case that putting in place a ‘compulsory introduction to basic internet safety practices in schools’ would allow children to develop into a more savvy, tech-literate generation who understand how best to use technology to keep themselves safe and benefit their lives. 

She suggests that a cybersecurity education could teach children:

  • Not to meet strangers they meet online 
  • Not to send hurtful messages
  • The dangers of sharing images of themselves 
  • Why children should not share personal details about themselves 

Inhabiting such a technology-filled world means enabling children to understand ‘technology best practices’ is as essential as teaching them to read and write. 


Read the article at it's original source here.

Natterhub is an educational social media platform created to prepare primary school children to thrive online.

Our interactive lessons give children all the skills that they need to stay safe in a digital landscape, and our Badges of Honour help teachers to keep track of their progress.

Natterhub is powered by TwinklHive, and is used in over 50 countries around the world. Twinkl, a global educational publishing house, offers primary and secondary resources to 8.5 million members, across 197 countries.

For press enquiries about the work of Natterhub or spokespeople for comment on issues relating to child safety online, please contact Natterhub on 0114 399 6905 or

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