Bjorn Beam is the founder and CEO of Security Squad, an educational program designed to teach children lessons about digital safety through a gamified ‘choose your own adventure’ format. Having spent more than 8 years working alongside organisations like the FBI and CIA, Bjorn understands the risks that future generations are going to have to face when it comes to cybersecurity and wants to ensure they are prepared.
Bjorn answered some questions about Security Squad.
What kind of lessons are children taught through Security Squad?
Like we teach kids to be citizens of nations, we need to teach kids to be digital citizens in this modern world. Children are taught about the value of keeping their personal information private and not volunteering information they don’t need to provide. It teaches children how to identify threats and also how to make sure they don’t victimise anyone else with their own behaviour.
It also shows children how some people may behave dishonestly online and that they should not automatically trust everything they read or hear on the internet. The program always recommends that children speak to their parents before doing anything they are unsure of. Most importantly, we give kids the power to be confident and safe online so the cyberbullies of the world will not bring them down.
How does the program ensure children retain what they are taught?
Gamification. The fact that we have designed our program with a video game framework means children are far more likely to engage meaningfully and retain what they have learned.
Our ‘choose your own adventure’ game, Security Squad Adventures, is designed to minimise negative reinforcement so that children learn from mistakes rather than feeling bad about them. Rather than blatantly saying an answer is wrong, the game shows what the world might look like if the child sticks with that answer, and this prompts them to make another choice based on the outcome they want rather than being correct for the sake of it.
What was the design/planning process for the games included?
We wanted to make something that was fun but also was rooted in education. ‘Choose your own adventure’ allows us to create more elaborate problem-solving scenarios while also making the experience more personalised for children. We are delivering these games with kids in mind by bringing in expert game designers, teachers, kids, and psychologists. Each game is designed with a specific view of what behavior it is trying to change, and then finding the right story to bring it all together.
How have you ensured the program is accessible for all kids?
Security Squad is easy for children to pick up and use or with the guidance of a teacher/parent. The program is highly visual, meaning that even children who may struggle with reading can benefit from the program being read to them by a teacher or parent. We are working to roll out these games to a variety of ages. In the future, popular games will be translated into other languages.
How can teachers implement Security Squad into their classrooms?
Teachers can use Security Squad to teach students on an individual or group level about the importance of being safe online. It is easy to incorporate Security Squad into existing lesson plans about cyber safety.
Are there any new games or features in the pipeline?
Our main product will be released shortly, and our topic-specific games will be released at the beginning of 2020. Our hidden objects game is in development and coming soon, so please signup for our listserve to stay on top of our new releases!