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This summer my eleven-year-old son, Jake, learned a hard online lesson. There’s a block building game that he’s been playing for two or three years, building up virtual coins. He had a lot of coins. But one morning I found him near tears, staring at his laptop. “I think I got hacked!” he yelled. I asked him what happened, and he told me that all of his coins were gone. At first he tried to tell me that he thought someone must have hacked into his account and stolen them. And I believed him, because his password was too easy. But after further questioning, he admitted that he had given his password to someone who had messaged him in the game.
I was so mad. I don’t even know what I said, but I yelled. I couldn’t believe, after all the times we’d talked about it, that he had given someone else his password.
This person had told him that if Jake gave him his password, he could turn Jake’s coins into ten times as many. And Jake, being coin greedy, believed him. And now his coins were gone. And I have to say, in the end I was a little glad – he had learned this lesson with virtual coins, instead of a bank account. No matter how much I had warned him, I’m his mom – it had gone in one ear and largely out the other. But the feeling of loss? Of being tricked? I knew that would stay with him.
There’s a new online security game, Hax Attacks, that came into Jake’s life at a good time. Still smarting from the coin loss, he started playing it before I even asked him to. He found it on our iPad, tried it, and instantly loved it. In fact, one day I said “Hey Jake, whatever you’re playing, could you stop and help me with something called Hax Attacks?” And he rolled his eyes and said “That’s what I’m playing!” An excellent sign.
Hax Attacks takes online security issues – passwords, firewalls, viruses, phishing, etc. – and turns them into a learning game. The basic premise is that you need to move your data from one place to another, safely, avoiding viruses and other attacks. And along the way you get tips about how to do that in the real world.
My favorite part – despite it being the one I am worst at – is the hackability meter, where you have to make up a password and then you get rated on how hackable it is. This was a really good lesson for both of us – it took many tries to learn the tricks to making good password. The password strength analysis breaks down exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can improve.
Jake’s almost done with all of the levels (I’m nowhere near that!) and is still loving the game. And being a kid, the information gets into his brain in a way that it just wouldn’t if spoken by his mom. He explained phishing to his sister in a way she totally understood, and has been asking me about our firewall.
Here’s Jake’s take on the game, in his own words (and a few of mine):
So there you have it. Learning is always easier when it’s fun, and these are such important concepts for kids to learn early. They’re growing up with this stuff. I want cyber security to be as second nature to Jake as putting a quarter in my sneaker for an emergency phone call was for me.
Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has Compensation Levels of 1 & 13. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.