Commentary: How schools can help prepare children for a digital future

Technology has revolutionized the way society operates, as most everything people do or see has some sort of technical component running in either the forefront or background. All the manual processes high schools used to teach years ago that related to performing life skills seem to be a thing of the past.

Currently, information security is a hot topic. You see it discussed in the media, there are even entire college degrees dedicated to it, but is the future generation, as a whole, really prepared for it?

Does curriculum need to be updated?

A decade or two ago high school students learned how to write checks and do simple tax returns in the classroom, perhaps during their senior year. Today those processes are automated and there is little demand for learning how to create or use paper documents. Most schools no longer teach these topics as part of lesson plans, as there is no need.

While it is understandable schools have adjusted to remove classroom time spent on items that are now obsolete, does the curriculum now reflect society; changes to teach the next generation new life skills needed? Just as learning how to write checks was once standard lesson fare, these days perhaps a portion of the school year should focus on how to safely use technology. School districts do typically teach the basics in computer operation and keyboarding, but anything more advanced is usually optional, if it is offered at all. This is starting to change, but there are a lot of risk factors that don’t seem to be emphasized in school, yet have become essential to learn due to the impact technology has had on society. Since technology is deeply ingrained with all aspects of how society conducts life, how is the next generation learning to protect its personal or work-related information? While there are challenges associated with introducing new curriculum items, it seems issues, such as information security, is one that is here to stay and might be worth the investment.

Children will live in a digital world

In today’s world people bank, shop, fill out applications, register for classes, and do a host of other things online at work which routinely requires giving out personal or sensitive information. With each electronic transaction there is an element of risk. Parents should indeed strive to do their part and teach their children, but what if their parents are not well-versed in technology themselves? If parents are not well-versed in computer and network security due to a generational gap where technology is concerned, how will their children learn?

While this gap has been somewhat closed in recent years, it appears society is still in a transitional phase and adapting to technology, which continues to rapidly progress. After computers were acclimated, now there are mobile and Wi-Fi issues to contend with, which brings on a heap of new security issues. Is it worth the investment for educational systems to focus on these issues to prepare students as they become adults? Obviously, there should be parental involvement in teaching children these new life skills, but this is difficult since people in older generations have not grown up with the same technologies and are still learning themselves.

As a result, not all parents necessarily understand the full impact of how to protect one’s personal data. This being the case, what kind of vacuum effect will it have on society overall?

Preparing children to face challenges

Identity theft is on the rise for personal information, and employers will expect employees to have knowledge of how to conduct standard business practices with a level of competence; these are not skills expected to be learned on the job. No longer is computer usage strictly limited to certain industries; it touches all work environments across many industries. As children become adults, they will be expected to have this knowledge under their belts.

Technology is here to stay and it will only become more entwined in daily lives. As “old fashioned” means of handling paper transactions become obsolete, society should prepare to restructure school curriculum to accommodate these changes and allow our next generation to be empowered and learn how to adequately protect information. Traditional subjects are still relevant, but perhaps curriculum should be adjusted to reflect the changing times as well.