We had what appeared to be an emergency last week, when one of the girls was told by someone she was IMing that he might have transmitted a virus to her that would completely wipe out her computer. There was much scrambling around for blank CDs to copy her files onto, hubby checked every possible way for a virus to get in as well as ran a regular virus scan, and I had to calm down a justifiably upset daughter. She does everything on that machine, and it would have meant losing art, writing, photos, tutorials, correspondence, and homework. Fortunately, it turned out to be a false threat, but it got me thinking.
You see, this young man and his friends enjoy hacking, creating and combating viruses and worms, challenging each other by passing them around (or teaching those less computer savvy a “lesson”). However, they don’t seem to think things through to all their possible outcomes, a typical hazard of, well, being a teenage boy. It brings me back to the early BBS days, when I had to deal with teenage boys who didn’t understand that they couldn’t have everything their own way, and couldn’t do things to people in real life to “teach someone a lesson” for something they didn’t like online. And, just as it was then, this young man simply couldn’t understand why my daughter was upset, why his offer of a rebuilt gaming computer and a half-hearted apology would not have been sufficient had she really lost everything. Then, as now, the ability to understand and empathize isn’t a well-developed trait in this demographic.
The problem I have is that I wish I could get these boys to really understand, not to punish them or work out my anger, or anything like that, but just to get it, because I know several of them, and they’re decent kids. If hubby wasn’t a computer genius, if he didn’t know how to safeguard the computers and fix things in case something went wrong, it could have been a huge-ass deal, indeed. 15 years worth of digital photographs. Downloaded programs, and programs we’d have to search through thousands of discs to find again. All the tutorials and game mods I’ve ever written, handouts for classes I’ve taught. Plus, since hubby works from home, all kinds of confidential information and work for clients could be compromised – the kinds of things a person could lose his job for. Of course, this is why he’s put in all kinds of protection, but there are some people out there with just as much to lose who are vulnerable. Were they to be hit, they would certainly not appreciate a cavalier attitude, nor would they let these kids off because they were just playing around. I don’t think, though, that they’d understand even if the ramifications to others or the consequences to themselves were outlined. It hasn’t happened so far, so it’s not going to, right?
I don’t know. Would they understand it if it were put in a more personal perspective? Say, oh, what if some kids were playing around with a slingshot or BB gun, and that car you’ve been restoring for years got messed up. Would it be OK if they offered to lend you one of their bikes? After all, they were just fooling around. And they’re sorry, geez, chill! What if someone found the case of CDs your band made and played frisbee with them all, leaving them scratched and broken all over the parking lot? Well, they didn’t know how hard you worked on them, and they can’t afford what you paid for the studio time, mixing, art, or production, but what if they feel kind of bad and give you a stack of blanks from Staples? That’d be OK, right?
Nah, that probably wouldn’t work, either. But at least I’ve said it and gotten it out of my system.