IT’S a case of the young leading the younger in Cork when it comes to online safety.
More than 140 transition year students from Cork schools are visiting Trend Micro’s Bishopstown campus for a Cyber Academy Bootcamp in the coming weeks.
In this exciting initiative, young teenagers, already often tech-savvy, are being trained to raise awareness amongst younger children aged 7-10 about online safety.
Teenagers have already begun their training and will be visiting their local primary schools to deliver the Cyber Academy series, developed by Trend Micro.
Avril Ronan, Trend Micro’s Global program manager, based here in Cork, explains that during Covid they reflected on the programs they offered on internet safety and started to look at producing content that could address a younger audience.
“Our role in Trend Micro is not just about Ireland, it’s global,” said Avril. “So we are creating this content and that’s being translated into multiple languages. We want to see where the gaps in knowledge are and try to fill those gaps.
“There are wonderful resources out there for parents and teachers to help them power and educate children, but I think the 7-10 year old age group, and how it’s delivered by transition year students, is unique and impactful because you’ve teens talking to younger kids, young person to young person, which is powerful in itself. It creates a safe space for them to open up.”
Avril adds “The TY students can have that conversation about how to keep safe in a way that you or I couldn’t, because we weren’t born with this technology like they were.”
The series is made up of 10 different short videos covering different topics like passwords, kindness, two factor authentication, privacy and misinformation.
Once Trend Micro had consulted with other experts, designed the series, and created supporting worksheets to help students learn, they started a pilot bootcamp last year by working remotely with transition year students in Kilkenny. Using interactive zoom training, they taught the students how to deliver the Cyber Academy series in primary schools. Since the bootcamps, Kilkenny students have gone on to reach 1,140 primary school students.
With such a successful pilot under their belt, Trend Micro can now offer the bootcamp remotely online nationwide, and even internationally.
But for students based in Cork, the bootcamp is being rolled out in person in the company’s offices.
Avril said, with only two TY students needed to present to a primary school class, the possible reach of this program is likely to reach tens of thousands of local primary school children.
“This is great news for 7-10 year olds in Cork, who may be experiencing their first access to their own devices and will now be given guidance.
Avrils says: “The transition year students benefit too. If you can facilitate a conversation with a class of 7-10 year olds, you can present anything to anyone as you grow in life. It’s great for confidence and self-esteem.”
Anne Cleary, TY co-ordinator of Colaiste Spiorad Naomh (CSN), said their Transition Year students recently attended the Trend Micro office for the bootcamp. Prior to that, the students were “trained to run workshops with first year students on internet safety, but then in conversation we realised we are leaving it too late, we need to be doing this at primary school level.”
Luckily, Trend Micro were having the same thoughts and invited CSN students into the bootcamp before the mid term break.
Anne says: “I couldn’t speak highly enough of the Trend Micro training, it’s at such a professional level. There’s no sitting back (at the bootcamp) but there’s no one lecturing either, it’s totally experiential.”
Cillian Ó’Cróinín, of CSN, who completed the bootcamp in February, says that as well as learning about the Cyber Academy series, “we were also taught an excellent way to deliver the material. I thought this was very important so we can help people receiving the presentations to understand the content quickly and clearly.”
Cillian is currently out on work experience but is looking forward to getting the opportunity shortly to present what he has learnt to young primary school children.
“It is an excellent and necessary thing to be teaching to children today, he added.
One of the aspects of it that Cillian likes is that, not only are the primary children taught about safety online, “but they also learn how to teach people their age that information so that others can learn from them”.
Keen to spread the word to children quickly, some Trend Micro employees are taking the initiative and delivering the series to Cork primary students while TY students are being trained.
Pupils at Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Alainn in Mayfield are currently being supported to complete the Cyber Academy series. I visited the school to see it in action.
What’s obvious as soon as the session starts is that many children of this age group - nine and up - already have plenty of experience online, chatting with others and gaming.
They have a lot to discuss with Sean O’Keefe, a Trend Micro employee, and there’s no hesitancy in raising their hands and asking more.
When asked their thoughts on Cyber Academy, two words were cheered by these third class students, “Go hiontach!”
The Cyber Academy series is available to everyone at https://www.trendmicro.com/internet-safety/for-kids/cyber-academy