This high schooler in the US teaches kids about cyber threats


It is never too early to learn how to be safe and protect personal information while using electronic devices such as computers, phones, and game consoles. — Internet vector created by stories - www.freepik.com

After spending part of her sophomore year using Zoom to do her University High coursework, Kayley Chan realised the importance of being secure online.

She didn’t have a bad online experience herself, but she did take a cybersecurity course in which she learned all about the dangers posed malware and phishing, along with the importance of protecting her identity and securing passwords. So Chan, now a 16-year-old junior, decided that such information should be made available to elementary school students who didn’t yet have the same computer savvy.

“I feel like with the pandemic, everything has moved online,” Chan said. “And the younger students don’t know how to use the computer as well, and don’t know about the dangers.”

A Girl Scout, and member of South Irvine Service Troop 1967, Chan also was looking for a project to help her earn the Gold Star, the highest award in Girl Scouting. So she decided to create a program to teach younger students about cyber threats and how to be safe. She called it CyberSafetyFirst.

The online course includes examples of various threats, as well as their definitions and how to protect yourself if they appear. By last summer, about 250 students had participated in Chan’s course.

“I give them the type of malware, viruses worms and Trojan horses; and I give them the definition for what that means,” she said. “Then I tell them about anti-virus software and firewalls to scan for it.”

Before she went live with the class she tested her curriculum on her younger brother, then 12, a cousin, 9 and some of their friends.

The test group seemed interested, so Chan moved forward.

“I knew I was going to keep the workshop going and I just needed to get more students,” she said.

So, with help from Nga Le, who first taught Chan about cybersecurity and who now teaches a science and engineering class at South Lake Middle School in Irvine, Chan developed a curriculum that’s appropriate for younger students. Le also evaluated Chan’s presentation.

Once Chan was up and running, Le connected her with other middle school teachers. Chan then posted fliers about her workshop on the parents’ messaging board for two Irvine elementary schools.

“I am very proud of Kayley for introducing cybersecurity to young students,” Le said by email. “It is never too early to learn how to be safe and protect personal information while using electronic devices such as computers, phones, and game consoles.”

With help from another friend, Lena Pham, a 17-year-old Corona del Mar High School student, Chan put on the first program a year ago. That first group was so interested that after Chan finished her last slide on the Zoom call, she said some of the students didn’t want to log off.

“A few really stood out and asked questions,” she said. “That was so fun.”

So far, the program has been a success. As part of the requirements for the Gold Star, Chan also created a survey that students took before and after the workshop to see what they learned.

“Reading the feedback, everyone said it really helped them to know how to be more safe,” she said. “I think I did make a difference.”

Her last workshop was last summer. With more studying hours now that she’s a junior, she hasn’t had the time to dedicate to it but would like to keep it going.

Diana Sundell, the Girl Scout’s liaison for the Gold Star, was instantly impressed with Chan’s passion for the project. She also said that the project’s sustainability is important.

“She was very knowledgeable, passionate and had strong research, Sundell said. “In the end, she actually went back and added some components to make it better.”

Sundell said that such projects often become a stepping stone for college and future career interests.

While Chan is taking a computer science class this year, she’s not sure yet that cybersecurity will be in her future, though she does have an interest in “anything that has to do with technology.”

Chan earned her Gold Star in December 2020. She also plans to keep up with Girl Scouts — moving to an ambassador role.

“I like that they help the community with people who have the same interest,” she said. I’ve been in the same troop since Kindergarten.” – The Orange County Register/Tribune News Service

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