Should children be encouraged to secure their family’s PCs?

I met a diverse group of people earlier today and one of the interesting debates that we touched upon was - "Should Children be encouraged to secure their family's PC(s)".

In my experience there seem to be two schools of thought:

 - firstly that generally speaking Children are far more able to secure computers than their parents - of course there are notable exceptions to this arguement when their parents are IT Professionals / Developers / enthusiasts. Of course it may not be in their interest to "secure" the machine depending upon what that means! 

- secondly that parents should manage the system(s) restrict the browsing and software habits of their Children - there are numerous challenges with this approach IMHO in that such parents either have to become (and maintain an appropriate level) of tech savvy OR trust an off-the-shelf package which their Children may find ways to circumvent particularly as attack tools and thinking develops.

Personally I don't like either approach. I think that parents should instill responsible behaviour in their Children whereby they consider and take responsibility for their actions - this sounds like a panacea written by someone who's not a parent (me). I accept that there's a certain minimum age whereby such responsiblity can be introduced.  IMHO the principles of "right" and "wrong" are no different for deeds carried out via electronic means as those by traditional methods.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? HIT THE "COMMENT BUTTON" and share your opinion. I'm sure that common sense is needed and that neither approach would work taken literally without compromise.

I read a frightening statistic recently (I'd give credit to the author but I can't remember where I read it) as to the massive number of digital  music players that have been sold contrasted to the relatively small number of music downloads purchased. Just think of how many Children you see wandering around listening to these devices and ask yourself where the music came from. Typical devices hold thousands of tracks. I'm not suggesting that every Child with a digital music player is listening to music they (or their parents) didn't purchase but rather am questioning the awareness/acceptance that copying a friend's collection is wrong.

BTW: Of course many Adults (myself included) enjoy digital music too but hopefully we can assume they know that commercial music should be purchased rather than copied.

Comments (6)

  1. AMS says:

    I found with my teenagers that fear of privacy loss was a huge motivator. When I explained that some of the crap they want to download contained spyware and Trojans that steals information that can then show up somewhere else, they were more inclined to help me keep the family PC safe. I also used financial incentives to get them to stay away from the "bad" P2Ps by providing a monthly allowance of legal downloads for their iPod & other devices. It worked. Of course, I’m also assuming parents have an interest in what their kids do with their spare time, and that may be a false assumption from what I see and hear. I bet if MTV and Fuse ran PSAs warning them to help tighten the locks on their machines, they’d be more inclined to do it. Then the question is: Will parents be able to continue using the computer????

  2. nick says:

    I think that getting anyone in a house to secure a machine would be a start, and so having someone able and aware to secure it would be a good thing. Probably the best situation would be to get children to secure the machines, but have them show their parents how. One popular option for children (well, with amongst my friends with them anyway) is to leave computers in plain view, until the children are of an age where you have to trust them. The knowledge that their browsing <I>might</I> be spotted at any time ought to keep them more on the straight and narrow

  3. John C. Kirk says:

    I’m inclined to sidestep the issue a bit, by saying that the parents should enlist someone else’s help to secure the PC (either a friend who knows about it, or a local computer shop). However, it does depend very much on the ages involved; looking at my friends with children, they’re still babies, so computer security really means "don’t stick toast into the floppy drive". In this situation, I think it makes sense for only the parents to know the admin password, and then re-evaluate the situation later. Whereas if you’re talking about people with 16-year old children, that’s going to be different. Honestly though, the main challenge is persuading the whole family to stop running with admin rights all the time, which is linked into the standard chicken/egg problem of applications that require those permissions. As for the digital music players, one possibility is that people have converted their existing CDs into mp3s, so the music has been legally purchased, even though it wasn’t bought as a download. That said, I’m sure there is widescale piracy going on, but that’s nothing new; when I was at school, it was commonplace to copy cassettes back and forth (was there any other reason to buy a stereo with two tape decks?), which people could carry around in their Walkmans.

  4. Um, all parents should at a minimum be setting up the accounts for children as LUA accounts. From there, each parent can work out the "appropriate" level of access for the child. The base problem stems from assuming that the user must have admin privs on the machine all the time by default. Certainly this is NOT the optimum default setting for a child sharing a computer. See: and:

  5. Steve says:

    I think that in terms of the person who is most likely to know how to use a PC in a household to its ‘full potential’ would be one of the children, this would seem a good idea. However, having seen at close hand how kids like to click on anything that seems cool or fun (I work in IT at a school) I wonder if they have the sense of ‘danger’ that an adult has. I saw that one of the earlier posters wondered what would happen if MTV had adverts about securing our PCs. What if more ‘mainstream’ channels such as ITV or Sky One did the same? We should not rely on youth (I am 30 by the way!) to secure our PCs.

  6. Matt Dickins says:

    It’s a big debate, especially the P2P one. tbh I am not adverse to P2P, however I do not promote the illegal downloading of files (dare I say it, Linux isos {legal ones and GPL stuff} make it useful to use torrents). As to securing PCs, on a home level without servers to partialy centrally manage the network I spend a lot of time securing and continually checking the computers at home (and those which I have setup on my school network for friends – ones which aren’t meant to be on there). As for out of the box ‘solutions’ people say ‘I have norton I’m fine’ people don’t know how to configure that properly (even when configured properly it’s actually a pretty c£$p package). I’m starting to rant now (as someone at a MS lecture I went to recently discovered I can do) so I will stop without putting all my points forward, but do contact me – see below. I honestly believe MS have been luring the end user into a sense of safety (if anyone wants to discuss that I won’t here do contact me on Skype, username ‘matt1ed’). BASICALLY IN THE END IT COMES DOWN TO USER EDUCATION.

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