“I didn’t mean it.” “We were just goofing around.” “I didn’t think.” How often have we heard these answers from kids when confronted with that age-old parental demand…? “What were you thinking?!”
Recently this question was asked by Sydney (AFP) to a 17-year-old Melbourne boy whose hacker behavior opened a virtual Pandora’s box, unleashing a torrent of vicious, frightening hackers upon unsuspecting Twitter users worldwide.
No one was immune from this arrogant prank gone horribly wrong as evidenced by the report, which stated that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Sarah Brown, wife of Britain's former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, were among those hit by the bug before engineers patched it up. [i]
This post could be a conversation about the many children who are hacking for the fun and sport. Often, they are not even held accountable; some are even getting attah boy pats on their virtual backs.[ii]
In light of recent events, we could chat about parents who somehow are missing the fact that little Johnny is wreaking havoc and disrupting people’s livelihoods throughout the web. Although these topics certainly came to mind, online security for children has always set me on fire. Then again, I dare not ignore my need for an honest look at the relationship between my daughters and the internet. Security for my children? Security from my children? Aw, come on…they're good kids, they know right from wrong. Argh, where IS a good pile of sand when I want to stick my head in it?
What started this writer frothing at the mouth?
Not this boy’s cavalier answers when asked why, nor was I particularly surprised that he blamed Twitter for being weak instead of taking responsibility for his doing a bad thing. My mama bear instincts roared to the surface and sirens went off in my head when I looked at my 14 year old, who was sitting at the computer; what about the kids who were on their account when it was suddenly redirected to a Japanese porn site!? [iii] Seriously, as I read this article I wanted to leap across the room, rush to my daughter and throw the monstrous intruder out the door.
Internet safety for children is a huge industry with many well-designed software products, safe browsing websites and some great watchdog groups. While these protection tools work well, I have to wonder; if evil hackers are successfully getting at websites, attacking hosting site servers, and penetrating social media with seeming ease, am I being gullible? Is believing these tools are going to stop some pervert from “worming” their way into my computer and my child’s life dangerously naive?
It is a horrifying reality that children are the most exploited computer users on the internet today. Everyone reading this can agree with the well-worn statement, that no program replaces good old-fashioned parental involvement. Eager as I am to hover over their shoulders, I still have little understanding of how to identify threats, hackers, lions, tigers OR bears. I have so much anti-bad stuff software on my computer that the Geek Squad has made me a coffee room joke. This inquiring mom needs to know, what are people using for protection and detection…why?
With the advent of self-hosted websites, such as WordPress, I am presented with an awesome opportunity to teach my child how to build a site. Having done a search, I find many nice, clear and free directions for my teenager to use so she can build a website and even begin earning money through her creation. (To think I wasted my childhood freezing on my paper route, alas.) Suddenly, I hear the mama bear roar in my ears, grrrr….what about hackers and other security threats. Slow down mama…this is just another learning opportunity.
At last, I have developed a lesson plan for my budding entrepreneur, including the research and implementation of a well-designed security program. Finally, I set her loose. Since I am aware of the dangers that exist on the internet, I will hover close by and implement whatever precautions I can think of to try to keep her safe.
Sitting back to enjoy a self-congratulatory cup of coffee, I begin reading articles about kids who hack…oh-oh! The statistics on children who hack are staggering and even more mind blowing is the documentation concerning their careless attitudes about breaking into someone’s website and causing untold harm simply because they could and “everybody’s doing it”. No doubt, this is a whole blog post in and of itself.
However, I just have to ask you and myself; what if you discovered your child had hacked a WordPress site much like the one you might own? For that matter, any site. Mama Bear is that you…?
Make it a great day,
Online Safety Specialist