Cybersecurity activity book aims to teach children about online safety – Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech researchers are harnessing cartoon animals and activities to help children turn the page on cybersecurity.

Faculty from the Virginia Tech National Security Institute developed “Cyber Snackz Adventures in Cybersecurity.” The activity book teaches elementary school students about internet safety in an age-appropriate, fun and educational way using engaging activities and coloring pages.

“The book covers topics like protecting your personal information online and not clicking on sketchy links, but it explains those topics in a way that young children can understand and with cute animals so they’ll pay attention,” said Stephanie Travis, director of the Senior Military College Cyber Institute at the Virginia Tech National Security Institute.

Travis and Christine Billingsley, chief operating officer at the Military Cyber Professionals Association, worked together to come up with the activities, character backstories, and educational information while working with illustrator Chris Flemming to bring the characters to life.

Along with coloring pages and activities, the book also includes an internet safety pledge for children to sign after they have completed the book and aims to address what the researchers see as a pressing need.

“Kids are using the internet earlier and earlier now,” Travis said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but they need to be prepared for the kind of dangers they could run into online.”

As a parent, Travis recognizes the difficulty of teaching kids about internet safety. In addition to the activity book, the team developed an introductory video and a parent’s guide with videos and additional resources.

“I understand that it’s hard to know where to start when talking to kids about these topics. I have a background in cybersecurity and it can still be difficult,” Travis said. “We hope that the activity book can open a door and provide a resource for parents to start having those conversations.”

The activity book project was developed using funding from a GenCyber grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity and the National Science Foundation

Travis and Billingsley are working with Virginia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity to identify K-12 schools for the activity book to be distributed.

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