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The Next Gen: How the Girl Scouts are Taking on Cyber Crimes

In an effort to educate their members on the importance of computer security and promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, in 2018, the Girl Scouts introduced a new badge in cybersecurity. The scouts can begin earning badges in this area beginning with their juniors level for girls in fourth and fifth grade.

Computer Crime Educational Push

The 18 available cybersecurity badges focus on various aspects of cybercrime. Cybercrime, also referred to as Internet crime, uses the Internet, mobile data, or other networked communication methods to:

  • Fraudulently or falsely represent information to consumers,
  • Illegally spy on them,
  • Steal their identity,
  • Hack their computer or mobile device to steal information.

The US arm of the Girl Scouts worked with Palo Alto Networks, a California security company, to develop the educational curriculum. The comprehensive curriculum aims to create a study course that encourages girls to enter STEM career fields. Women are currently underrepresented in cybersecurity fields globally, representing 11 percent of its workforce, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity.

Computer security provides a wide-open field with a lot of room for growth. E-commerce represents nearly 20% of all purchases worldwide and consumers won’t buy from a website that appears insecure, with 84% abandoning a purchase when they note insecurity. From web development to cyber security investigators, the field offers a multitude of career choices.

The 18 badge program can promote interest for girls entering junior high school and foster interest in the STEM fields which they will have the opportunity to study in high school, then college. Developing early interest in these fields grows their opportunities, for example, allowing them to study with groups such as Girls That Code and similar organizations. This provides them with early opportunities for education, camps, and earnings, since it prepares them for after-school jobs with real earning power.

Developing the Program

As the program has grown, the Girl Scouts organization has involved other organizations, including the US government. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Girl Scouts partnered to offer a summer program that lets a scout earn a certificate in computer security from DHS by completing ten activities during the summer. This program is open to girls in grades six to 12.

While it used to be known as an organization for young women created to get them interested in camping, crafting, and outdoor pursuits, Girl Scouts has transformed its focus to include activities that prepare young women for future careers. The cyber security badge is only one of many STEM area badges that the scouting program now offers. Other STEM-related badges include the areas of automotive design, space exploration, the environment, entrepreneurship, and general science.

The cybersecurity program looks at one of the many challenges future generations will face in their careers. Other challenges include pipeline corrosion that costs the US more than $9 billion annually. Other STEM issues Girl Scouts will tackle as adults include global warming, population explosions, and nuclear energy safety.

The other STEM-related badges use similar partnership developed curriculums to educate the scouts. The volunteer organization does still offer the same developmental badges as it once did. The female scouts do still offer badges in sewing and camping. As we move further into the 21st century though, Girl Scouts continues to expand its badge offerings and re-focus its program to better serve young women.

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