PhD Thesis Sought Opportunities to Raise Digital Safety Competences in Pupils


On 18 January, Birgy Lorenz from the Tallinn University School of Digital Technologies defended her Doctoral Thesis, which focused on the development of digital safety in Estonia and the opportunities to rise safety skills in pupils and the adults supporting them. The author concluded that Estonia is in dire need of a central solution to raise the level of cyber hygiene. Until today, digital safety has been a pet project of volunteers or European support programmes.

The thesis originated from the fact that digital safety in education is developed parallel to the application of e- and mobile studies. “The society faces various challenges which bring about the need to regulate the digital sphere,” she said. The author added that currently the field resembles the Wild West, wherein the central programmes and directions sent to schools about the challenges and solutions concerning digital safety in formal education are rather weak.

The author developed a digital safety model, which helps analyse the current tools and find new solutions for solving the problems at hand. “Today we mostly use lectures, work sheets, warning articles in the media and literature translated from other languages to tackle most problems,” she explained. The model offered in the thesis relies on four aspects: (1) stakeholder zones: personal (family, friends, etc.) or public (school, acquaintances, etc.), (2) classification of risks (fraud, data, health, freedom, reputation, etc.), (3) levels of concerns, and (4) solutions.

The author sees several application areas for the model. “It could be used to formulate a national information strategy, a tool for understanding the concerns regarding digital safety among pupils and schools, or for analysing the results achieved by those in charge of the field. In addition, the model could be used to design new tools and solutions, and predicting their usefulness,” Lorenz said.

The PhD Thesis “A Digital Safety Model for Understanding Teenage Internet User’s Concerns” will be defended on 18 January at 12:00 at room M-648, Tallinn University Mare Building. The supervisor was associate professor Kaido Kikkas of Tallinn University. Her opponents were associate professor Rain Ottis of Tallinn Technical University and lecturer Elza Dunkels from Umeå University. The thesis is available at the Tallinn University Academic Library e-repository ETERA.

This research was supported by the European Social Fund’s Doctoral Studies and Internationalisation Programme DoRa, the Tiger University Programme of the Information Technology Foundation for Education, the European Association of Technology Enhanced Learning, the Tallinn City scholarship, the Swedbank business ethics scholarship through University of Tartu Centre for Ethics, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, the Enterprise Estonia and the Research Funds of the university and of the School of Digital Technologies.

Additional information:
Kerli Onno