With the world pandemic of COVID-19, children around the world have been spending time at home. This condition replaces school time and the time spent with friends with free time to cruise the internet and look for free or pirated downloads. In their world, children see the “free stuff” as a way to enjoy what they like and a thrill of circumventing “the system.” It is up to the adults to try to explain that downloading can not only expose them to dangers but is also making others suffer.
First Step: Download Threats
Kids thinks that they and their technologies are infallible. This attitude makes them perfect targets to lure them into internet sources that entice them with “free” things. In their effort to gain games, movies, and music at no cost, they never think beyond the immediate moment, and before they know it, their technologies are compromised as well as their identity. Beyond putting high level firewalls and security systems on all of the technologies, parents and caregivers need to have a few conversations with their kids regarding the dangers of downloads as well as file sharing. While kids may roll their eyes and seem disinterested, they need to be aware of:
- Downloading exposes their devices to viruses that can shut them down and wreak havoc on the very systems that they love.
- File sharing puts them at risk for outright theft. Giving other computers the ability to view their systems and files lets others get their personal information and once that happens they can lose all access to everything.
- Not everyone on the net is who they seem to be. Lots of chat rooms and file sharing arenas are really adults or other kids that are looking to abuse, bully, or just put them in danger.
Second Step: Explaining Piracy is Theft
Children usually don’t perceive pirated music, videos, or games as theft. It has become a shadowed secret that they share with each other and since this kind of theft is rarely mentioned, they just look at it as a way to get what they want without having to pay for it. You may hear comments such as “everyone does it” or “who is it hurting?” It’s up to adults to try to explain that there are both legal and moral ramifications of piracy.
Legal concepts are often too complex for kids to understand, but in simple language, stealing something that is copyrighted is theft. They wouldn’t walk into any store and steal a book, DVD, CD, or game and walk out with it without paying, and downloading pirated content without paying for it is the same thing. Corporations are losing a lot of money due to pirated content and they are starting to go after not only those online that institute the free downloads, but those that are doing the downloading. In some cases they are making an example of them, but in the situations where they are kids, the family can be fined as much as $30,000 and even taken to court. Countries around the world are instituting new piracy laws and those that are caught are being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
According to SIIA IP Protection:
“The losses suffered as a result of software piracy directly affect the profitability of the software industry. Publishers have fewer resources to devote to research and development of new products, have less revenue to justify lowering software prices and are forced to pass these costs on to their customers. Using pirated software is also risky for users. Aside from the legal consequences of using pirated software, users of pirated software forfeit some practical benefits as well.”
Steps to Help to Prevent Downloads
- Locate the computer in a centralized part of the house and allocate certain times of the day/evening that your child has access.
- Use a web service that allows you to track the online activities of your child such as Windows Vista Parental Controls.
- Assign your child a limited user account. Windows gives you the option of multiple user accounts on a computer and you can designate a unique profile for your child.
- Show your kids the ways to legally download. There are a number of sites that offer legal access for free or at low cost. You might incorporate an allowance for your child designated specifically for legal downloads for their music, videos, or games.
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“CyberEd understands the challenges that families face in their attempts to explain piracy to their kids. Today’s children spend a lot of time on the internet and as adults, we want to protect them from the dangers that lurk there. Piracy has become a hot commodity for children and it is our responsibility to explain the seriousness of what it presents.”
– Sharon Knowles, CyberEd