Savvy GenZs: Scammers Love Those Kids

October 3, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Many of us assumed the generation that has grown up using digital devices would be the most cyber-crime savvy. Apparently not. Vox reports, “Gen Z Falls for Online Scams More than their Boomer Grandparents Do.” Writer A.W. Ohlheiser cites a recent Deloitte survey that found those born between 1997 and 2012 were three times more likely to fall victim to an online scam than Boomers, twice as likely to have their social media accounts hacked, and more likely to have location information misused than any other generation.

One might think they should know better and, apparently, they do: the survey found Gen Z respondents to be quite aware of cybersecurity issues. The problem may instead lie in the degree to which young people are immersed in the online world(s). We learn:

“There are a few theories that seem to come up again and again. First, Gen Z simply uses technology more than any other generation and is therefore more likely to be scammed via that technology. Second, growing up with the internet gives younger people a familiarity with their devices that can, in some instances, incentivize them to choose convenience over safety. And third, cybersecurity education for school-aged children isn’t doing a great job of talking about online safety in a way that actually clicks with younger people’s lived experiences online.”

So one thing we might to is adjust our approach to cybersecurity education in schools. How else can we persuade Gen Z to accept hassles like two-factor authentication in the interest of safety? Maybe that is the wrong question. Ohlheiser consulted 21-year-old Kyla Guru, a Stanford computer science student and founder of a cybersecurity education organization. The article suggests:

“Instead, online safety best practices should be much more personalized to how younger people are actually using the internet, said Guru. Staying safer online could involve switching browsers, enabling different settings in the apps you use, or changing how you store passwords, she noted. None of those steps necessarily involve compromising your convenience or using the internet in a more limited way. Approaching cybersecurity as part of being active online, rather than an antagonist to it, might connect better with Gen Z, Guru said.”

Guru also believes learning about online bad actors and their motivations may help her peers be more attentive to the issue. The write-up also points to experts who insist apps and platforms bear at least some responsibility to protect users, and there is more they could be doing. For example, social media platforms could send out test phishing emails, as many employers do, then send educational resources to anyone who bites. And, of course, privacy settings could be made much easier to access and understand. Those steps, in fact, could help users of all ages.

Cynthia Murrell, October 3, 2023


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