Fun game keeps kids out of the cyber snakepit

Neo Bodumela

AN INNOVATIVE yet simple idea to combine game play with cyber education has earned a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) student an all-expenses paid trip to an international conference in London.

Thanks to her passion for information technology (IT) and people, NMMU school of ICT PhD student Rayne Reid will jet off to London to present her paper on teaching children about cyber security through the simple game of snakes and ladders.

Reid is one of 15 finalists worldwide who will present her paper at the prestigious Kaspersky’s Cyber Security for the Next Generation competition final at the Royal Holloway University of London on June 25 and 26.

Reid’s paper was based on work done to increase cyber safety awareness amongst school children as part of research during the school of ICT’s social engagement activities. The paper was entitled, “Back to basics: Information security education for the youth via game play”.

She believes it is important to build skills and educate children on how to deal with the dangers of the internet and technology early, she explained.

“What we did was we created a simple game of snakes and ladders – but with the theme of cyber security. The children would then learn good and bad lessons about cyber security as they went along. After they played, we then gave them a quiz to see what they had learned. It’s a lot of fun but they learn at the same time.”

She was awarded third place at the first regional round of the competition and also received an award for the most practical application in the competition where she went up against information and communications technology students from countries in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The international computer security company Kaspersky hosts this student information security paper competition annually on a global basis.

“Just going to the regional finals was quite an achievement for me and I had no idea that I would actually be asked to present my research at the next round. There are five rounds that you have to go through so this was a pretty tough to get through and I already have the sense that I have won. I think I have been very fortunate to have accomplished this much.

“I love working with people and I always try to combine ICT with that, and educating children about cyber awareness is just one of the ways that we do that.

“Technology and the internet is such a vast space and we have to be responsible in how we can protect children against certain aspects of it,” she said.

Although information technology is traditionally a male dominated field, Reid said she feels women are equally suited to it. “Being a female in this male dominated field hasn’t been a particular problem at all for me. ICT deals a lot with logic and problem solving and I think that women are often natural problem solvers. I’ve always been interested in IT and I didn’t really want to go into the traditional professions like accounting. I wanted to be continuously challenged and IT does that because it’s continuously changing with new innovations and developments,” she said.

Her work has also led to international collaboration between NMMU’s School of ICT researchers and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) with regards to youth cyber security education in Singapore.

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