Cyber Awareness Month – A Robust Campaign with an Even Greater Impact

Since 2021, The Letter M has been called upon to support ECNO (Education Collaborative Network of Ontario) in their annual K-12 Cyber Awareness Month campaign in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Education.

The K-12 Cyber Awareness Month (CAM) campaign runs each October to promote safer and more secure online and digital technology practices for students across publicly funded schools in Ontario. The campaign includes multiple tailored resources covering best practices in cyber safety, cybersecurity, and online privacy for K-12 students. In 2023, we introduced a new theme: best ethical practices using Artificial Intelligence.

When we first began our work on CAM in 2021, the campaign had an overarching goal for an always-increasingly important concept: promoting online safety to one of the most vulnerable user populations.

With technology and the internet being such a huge part of virtually every student’s day-to-day, the need for education and awareness surrounding best practices in using them is greater than ever. However, the challenges lie in communicating these messages in a way they’ll be acknowledged, and then effectively utilized; How do you convey risk without promoting fear? And when you figure that out, how do you then present it in a child-friendly way?

As someone who teeters between the Millennial and Gen Z category (I blame TikTok), I’ve always been excited to be able to play a roll in promoting education about cyber safety and security. I’ve grown up in a time where cyber crime in everyday life was not a huge issue, and I’m also privy to the millions of dangers that technology and the internet present after only a few decades. It was clear: we certainly had our work cut out for us.

In the weeks leading up to the October 1st launch, we worked to develop content that appealed to a younger generation and could be easily utilized and implemented into existing curriculum by educators. The social media materials, web copy, and toolkits we developed were well received by those who used them, but ECNO quickly realized that a concept as broad, and as crucial, as student cybersecurity deserved an even more robust social movement.

Since then, The Letter M has played a larger role in the development of CAM, and the 2023 campaign was our biggest and greatest yet. We worked closely with ECNO and the Ministry to expand the provided classroom resources available to educators, ensuring the messaging and formats were accessible to various age groups, learning levels, and circumstances.

The resources, supplied in both English and French, encompassed a variety of themes relevant to the K-12 student population, including social media and gaming, device security and privacy, digital wellness, and even artificial intelligence. These themes were then broken down and explored through various formats, including classroom-friendly gamification, videos depicting real-life scenarios where the subject matter could be applied, posters, and all kinds of shareable materials suitable for all ages.

When the campaign development was complete, it was wrapped up with a bow as an ultimate CAM Resource Hub on the ECNO website. The themes were “launched” a week at a time, with each week of the month focusing on one aspect of cyber awareness, ready to be consumed by teachers and students across the province.

The response to the campaign was exceptionally positive, and I’ve got to say, that feels like a huge triumph. ECNO received feedback from educators and IT professionals across the province who were able to implement the material into their curriculum, expressing how engaging this year’s campaign turned out to be. Analytics from the various interfaces allowed us to measure how popular the provided materials were, making the work that went into creating them that much more rewarding.

Working with ECNO, especially on CAM, has given us a front-row seat in the subject of cybersecurity education and how essential it is to be teaching it as a grassroots movement. By incorporating it in the classroom, we better prepare students for a successful and safe future.

At this point, I feel like I could talk about cybersecurity in my sleep; but it’s a conversation I’d always be happy to have. Our involvement in CAM is incredibly rewarding, especially when we can see it trickle down directly into the classroom. Whether your 7 or 17, learning the fundamentals of online safety is never too soon.

While Cyber Awareness Month 2023 has come to a close, ECNO continues to lead the charge in spreading awareness about the importance of cyber security throughout the year. We’re so thrilled the 2023 campaign was such a success, and we’ll take what we’ve learned from it to make it an even better product for 2024.

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