Kiddie Hacker Lessons?

Most of us have heard of swim, soccer and piano lessons. We might consider sending our kids to dance class or even space camp. But how many of us have thought about sending our children to Las Vegas for a hackers’ convention?

Reuters is reporting that DefCon, an annual conference for hackers, is including a kids’ conference to run along-side the adult progrmas. They are stressing that the conference encourages kids to be “white hats,” hackers who use their skills to defend themselves and their friends or do good deeds on the internet. DefCon actually welcomes police officers, FBI agents and National Security personnel to meet the rising talents of the internet.

I have to admit, when I first read this headline, I was a little doubtful. I wasn’t quite sure that teaching children to do nefarious acts on the computer was an awesome idea. But DefCon makes a very intelligent point. Kids are growing up with computers. They are exploring their power with a keyboard and a whole lot of curiosity. Maybe it’s not an awful idea to teach kids that it can be cool to use their powers for good.

So what does one learn at DefCon Kids? Elite hackers come in to teach kids about basic computer systems, lock picking, problem solving, and hardware hacking. Honestly, I think I would love this conference. The adult one would probably be way above my head.

Is there a danger in teaching children skills that can be used negatively? Of course there is. It could also be dangerous to take a child to a shooting range. It’s not a hobby that I would choose for my daughter, but it’s also not something that I begrudge other kids the right to do. It could be dangerous to teach kids martial arts. But it also helps them defend themselves and learn about hard work, commitment and responsibility.

Kids interests might lead them in paths that their parents don’t choose. But its still our job to give them moral values and ethical direction. If the amazingly-talented hackers that attend DefCon want to help us teach our children how to hack responsibly, maybe we should accept their help.

(Photo: DefCon Kids)

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