Code word (Head’s Blog March 2017)

Posted on 1 March 2017

Two articles out today tell us lots about girls’ relationships with technology. On one hand the CyberFirst Girls code breaking competition run by the National Cyber Security Centre has drawn over 3,500 entrants. The level of interest has surpassed expectations and is an exciting glimpse of how ready this generation of girls is to embrace the challenges technology offers.

But there are other challenges raised by the technological revolution. Children and parents must face up to the dangers of the internet we are told and tackle the pervasive practice of sexting amongst teens.

The adolescent urge to publicise the private is huge. The ubiquitous teen selfie slips too often into sexting or sending naked photos which can fall into the wrong hands. We’re told that by the time children leave primary school most will have seen online pornography and that most girls will have been asked for a sexual digital image of themselves by a friend before they leave secondary school.

Should we be surprised that this has outstripped (no pun intended) our ability to control it? There are codes at work here too… Teen codes. Parents and educators who did not grow up in this world of non-stop digital image need to crack this code and find a way to communicate consent issues and relationship education in ways that make sense to the cyber generation.

It won’t be easy and may require intelligence-gathering from all sides, but cyber attacks come in many forms. How great that girls are confidently applying their cyberskills to code-breaking. Time for all of us to do the same and empower girls to control their social cyberspace too.

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