Meet the Girl Scouts that will earn badges for being cybersecurity experts

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Samantha, a 15-year-old Girl Scouts Ambassador in the greater Chicago and northwest Indiana region, said that one of her school friends had an issue with a classmate using her login to send out messages.

"The cybersecurity training will help girls avoid situations like this!" said Samantha.

It's true: Girl Scouts will offer cybersecurity badges beginning in September 2018. The series will begin with 18 badges, covering topics from how to stay safe online, how to avoid online scams, cryptography, coding and computer skills needed to pursue a career in cybersecurity — to name a few.

Girl scouts
Girl scouts Girl Scouts

Sharleen, a 17-year-old in the Girl Scouts of Orange County, is "actually really excited" to learn about our "current cybersecurity measures." "I really like knowing about how things work, which is actually what first got me interested in STEM," she told Mic.

Sharleen started STEMup4Youth,, a program that aims to inspire youth to pursue STEM topics and, ultimately, careers. "So, like, learning about what measures are currently being taken to protect our information, how information is transferred and kept safe while being transferred, stuff like that," she said.

Girl Scouts of all ages will learn cybersecurity skills beginning next year
Girl Scouts of all ages will learn cybersecurity skills beginning next year Girl Scouts of the USA/Girl Scouts of the USA

Girl Scouts ages 5 to 18 will have the opportunity to learn a number of age-appropriate topics and skills from cybersecurity experts. For older girls, this includes how to deal with cyberbullies.

"Oh, gosh, cyberbullying is awful," Sharleen said. "I've heard many stories of people who have been cyberbullied and even were pushed to commit suicide. It's really horrible."

According to a Pew Research Center study, 26% of young women aged 18 through 24 have been stalked online and 25% were targets of online sexual harassment. A ReportLinker report that surveyed individuals aged 13 through 24 found that 38% of respondents were victims of cyberbullying or had a close friend who was.

"I have read articles about teen cyberbullying that sadly led to fatal ends," Samantha said in an email, noting that she hopes all the girls can learn how to prevent it.

"It takes one voice, then a supporting voice, then a field of supporters to end cyberbullying," she said.

Victoria, a 16-year-old Girl Scouts Ambassador in the Oregon and Southwest Washington region, said that it's "difficult" to know what to do when you're harassed online, and that "many people are hesitant to confront the bully or bring the issue to an adult."

"I'm proud that Girl Scouts is preparing young girls with the tools necessary to overcome these challenges, especially teaching them the safest actions to take," she said.

Girl Scouts will learn from a panel of cybersecurity experts
Girl Scouts will learn from a panel of cybersecurity experts Palo Alto Networks/Palo Alto Networks

Both girls see the badges as an opportunity to get young girls excited about pursuing a job in STEM. Sharleen said that she definitely wants to go into one of the STEM fields in the future — possibly biochemistry or computer science. Victoria also wants to major in a STEM field in college. "I love math and working with people," she said.

"I think it's pretty important to continually promote women in these fields because we are so underrepresented, right?" Sharleen said. "Right now it's mostly male-dominated."

A Girl Scout builds a soda can robot with help from a female tech executive at the "She Rules: STEM" event.
A Girl Scout builds a soda can robot with help from a female tech executive at the "She Rules: STEM" event. Peter Barreras/AP

Women are still starkly underrepresented in STEM. The field is predominantly male, and women who do end up pursuing careers in science and tech face gender bias and sexual harassment, Sharleen added.

"So if we push more women into these fields," she said, "women will feel more empowered. They will feel like they actually belong in these fields and they won't feel left out or out of place when working."

Samantha said that "most jobs will require computer access, so cybersecurity is essential training for every girl!"