SmartBus: Driving Online Safety for Children in Italy
While the Internet provides incredible opportunities and benefits, the online world does not come without risks.
Privacy, cyberbullying, scams, malware, and identity theft are just some of the threats facing young people and adults alike. Being smart about online safety is an essential facet of the digital literacy mix and one that is essential for people to lead productive and positive digital lives in today's increasingly digital world.
With that in mind, the Huawei SmartBus was born in 2019 with one clear mission: to provide training for school students in cybersecurity awareness and the responsible use of digital tools. In February 2023, the Italy tour began under the 'SmartBus: Cybersafe on Board project'. Stopping off in Italy's Piedmont, Lombardy, Tuscany, Lazio and Campania regions, the training focused on lower secondary school students and 11 to 15, reaching 4,500 children in 206 schools. And this time, the SmartBus also opened its doors to 600 adults, who also benefited from the training, which wrapped up in May.
The training approach designed and delivered by local TECH4ALL partner Parole O_Stili was designed to be interactive, fun, and engaging. Digital tools and gamification methodologies were applied to real-life online activities, and trainees were provided with a tablet featuring a WebApp developed specifically for the project. The app gave participants the opportunity to test their skills through quizzes and then discuss the results with educators.
The quizzes, and a survey of the adult cohort, also provided findings on participants knowledge of digital tools and cybersecurity, which is detailed in the report SmartBus - The perception of the risks and opportunities of the network in Italy.
Children and adult trainees surveyed
Safe and secure?
Eliminating potentially risky behaviors is a key aim of the SmartBus project, in particular as young people transition from using mainly social media apps to dealing with more sensitive data scenarios such as online banking, e-healthcare, online public services, and protecting company data when they reach employment age. While overall understanding of cybersecurity was high in the survey respondents, some gaps did emerge in how this knowledge is applied in real life.
- 50% of students do not set secure passwords or keep a secure password archive using special tools, with 47.6% of girls reporting that they use a simple note on their smartphone. However, 90% of students were highly familiar with cybersecurity and privacy terminology, showing a precise understanding of terms such as "ban", "block", and "report violations".
- Students displayed less concern about malware or copyright issues, with 50.7% prepared to download pirated games. They were also less concerned about the potentially negative impact of the entertainment content they use every day.
- Only 3.1% of participants answered all questions correctly. Overall, however, participants displayed a medium-high level of knowledge about digital tools, the Internet, and online risks.
- Students appear to be better informed than adults.
- In the adult age group, women displayed greater awareness of digital tools and cybersecurity than men. In the student age group, boys displayed greater awareness than girls.
As of May 2023, the Huawei SmartBus had visited more than 506 schools in nine countries, including Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain, as well as Italy, reaching more than 71,000 children, parents, and teachers.
The report is a joint effort by Huawei and Parole O_Stili, detailing the current landscape of digital literacy and online security awareness in the country. As a pioneering analysis, SmartBus puts forth recommendations to promote cybersecurity and the safe, responsible use of technology among Italian internet users.