Hackers and cyberbullies: school advice and real life.

I wondered why my teenager son had changed his name on Facebook “I haven’t. Some stupid idiot has hacked my account. I know who it is. And I’m gonna sort’im out”.

Heart sinks. “Don’t go and fight OK? He is an idiot, don’t you go and get yourself in trouble at school. Please”. Son mumbles some kind of aw’right, shrugs, puts his phone down and gets back to his Netflix series.

His Dad and I have always told him Don’t fight, Don’t look for trouble, Stay away from nonsense, Play at playtime, Listen and behave at lesson time. What kids are told to do and what kids do at school is, if my family is anything to go by, not necessarily quite the same. They have to interpret in their young mind what parents say, what parents mean, what they actually want to listen to, and apply the whole thing in a different environment, when we’re not on their back keeping an eye.

Son has also been told “If you are provoked, defend yourself”. It’s all very well this turn the other cheek, but if somebody walks all over you once, and you let them, they’ll trample you again, won’t they, they might not get bored as suggested they will; and then what in adult life?

Change jobs?
Move away?
Get sick?

Kids have to understand how to apply the advice we give them. And learn how to deal with bullies. They’ll meet big bad bullies at school, the teasers that take it too far, and at work, the losers that don’t know how to play fair and square and have to put others down to make themselves feel big and important.

Will kids have learnt how to deal with these bullies with the advice they get from school?

If my son’s school is anything to go by, No.

I received an email from my son’s Head of Year. “I have advised him to get off Facebook”.

I know my son was hacked, not bullied, quite different. But the hacker is apparently a bit of an online bully. No surprise there. Not that anybody has any proof. Or maybe they do and they’re waiting to have enough evidence to contact the police. Anyhow, I was just stunned that teachers advise kids to get off Facebook. In 2015.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of time for my son’s Head of Year. She contacts me when she thinks trouble might be brewing, she’s arranged for a fantastic male teacher my son looks up to to act as a mentor, she has boys of her own, she cares. She totally gets it as a mother, how difficult it is to navigate this new to us online world, and the real world of boys. And then, she has school guidelines to follow. I actually don’t know what school guidelines are for bullying as I couldn’t find them on their website and I luckily have never had to ask for them. Hopefully kids who are bullied won’t go via their school’s website to get help.

So my son didn’t headbutt the hacker, or thumped him in the stomach, or kneeled him in the balls, you know, what most boys really want to do when faced with some kind of abuse (and let’s admit it, many girls too). He went to see a teacher. As advised to do. Time and again. Very grown up really, in a school kind of way. And was told to get off Facebook. I don’t know if the hacker was questioned. I do know my son was hacked again two days later. In fact, the hacker gave one of his hacking cyber mates my son’s password. Allegedly.

Now, I don’t blame the Head of Year for giving antiquated advice. She’s got enough on her plate with her GCSE year students, the boys who can be so silly, the girls who can so stress, the kids with learning difficulties, the kids with behaviour problems, the exams, the mock exams, contacting the parents about this and that, oh and the lessons, being a teacher and all.

I don’t even blame the school for being overwhelmed with cyber stuff. This is a pupil to pupil thing that happened outside of school. And to be fair to the school, it was his mentor who helped my son change his password and put his proper name back into Facebook. Thank you Mr C.

So let’s forget about the hacker for now, he’ll get his come uppence. Let’s think about cyberbullies. Who actually deals with them? The police? Do we have enough white hat hackers in the police to deal with cyber crime? Which leads us to thinking about hackers again, as in today’s news, a large telephone company -that happens to also be an internet provider- has been hacked. That’s pretty major. A communication provider sure has a heck of a lot more consequences than a boy’s Facebook account.

My son is lucky. He now knows what it’s like to be hacked, with no major private information divulged, no financial consequences, and he’s been told about changing passwords, and how to do it.

Thank you mentor.
The school did help after all.
Best they could.

One day, our children will look back at Facebook as we look back at our parents’ brick phones and remember the days when they learnt how to deal with everyday life. As we do. Cyber is no longer sci-fi, and it’s not going anywhere. Let’s now make sure we train enough white hat hackers to protect us from the nasty black hat hacker monsters that roam the back end of telephone companies, banks, supermarkets, and anything else they can get their dirty keyboards on.

Now, go and change those passwords of yours. Don’t just have one for everything, don’t use your child’s name, or your pet’s name, certainly not your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name. Be one step ahead of those black hat hackers.

Revenge of the nasty nerds is so last year, the power of the positive introverts is where it’s at these days don’t you know?

Well it is in my head anyway.

What do you think?

Le penseur, Rodin, St Paul de Vence, France.
Le penseur, Rodin, St Paul de Vence, France.

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