Encourage children to learn cyber skills online, says ex-GCHQ head

There is a shortage of professionals with cyber skills in the UK, and both large and small businesses are facing the brunt of this issue. However, the ex-Director of GCHQ believes that this skills shortage can be overcome if parents encourage their children to spend more time online learning and exploring things.

Robert Hannigan, who was GCHQ’s Director from 2014 to 2017, said that parents should not worry about the time that children spend online. Rather, they should focus on the kind of activities that their kids undertake. Ensuring that children do not indulge in passive watching but opt for learning and exploring would help them learn.

These comments from Mr Hannigan came after Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner, advised parents to minimise the use of social media by their children just as they control the amount of junk food that their kids consume.

Ms Longfield stated that young children spend more than eight hours a week browsing the Internet, while children between the ages 12 and 15 spend over 20 hours a week on this pastime.

While Mr Hannigan agrees that children should be protected from the dangers lurking in the cyber world, they should also be encouraged to learn cyber skills, as the country needs these skills to compete with other nations.

He pointed out that the vast volume of data from the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and machine learning can prove to be extremely useful. However, the UK requires young people who are willing to explore, take things apart and put them back together and learn if the country wants to use data and technology optimally.

Mr Hannigan added that the UK has not encouraged an inquisitive engineering thought process, and this has resulted in merely nine per cent of women becoming engineers. This is in complete contrast to the percentages in Germany and Denmark, where 18 per cent and 36 per cent respectively are female engineers.

A recent study by information security certification body ISC found that just eight per cent of women are in the field of IT security and that their male counterparts earn 15.5 per cent more than they do on average.

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