August 19th, 2009

Gray Matter: How to Teach (Safely) Your Kid to be a Hacker

Today’s youth are growing up learning and socializing online, as consumers and creators of digital media.  Because so many young people spend so much time online, they’re pretty savvy when it comes to navigating the technological landscape.  But that knowledge, if unguided, can pose potential problems.

The recent sentencing of a $675,000 fine to a graduate student, Joel Tenenbaum, for downloading and sharing 30 songs may indeed heed a warning to parents and young people about the repercussions of breaking the law on the internet. On the other hand, experts such as Stanford University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig have argued that fair use of copyrighted material must be allowed, in part to encourage curiosity and creativity (watch Lessig’s TED talk below).bluebox

So what to make of this ‘gray matter,’ the space between breaking the law and pushing creative boundaries? What if kids and parents explored hacking techniques together?  That’s what Wired Magazine’s “5 Hacks You Can Explore With Your Kids,” suggests.  The article offers advice on ways to “encourage exploration and discourage criminal records.” After all, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs started out ‘hacking’ Blue Boxes to prank call the Vatican, and went on to revolutionize personal computing with a little company called Apple.

It definitely puts a new spin on an old adage:  the family that hacks together …?

5 Hacks You Can Explore With Your Kids [Wired, 8/13/09]
Edupunks and the Future of American Education [Fast Company, 8/09]
Challenging Federal Copyright Law, and Losing [NY Times, 8/10/09]
BONUS VIDEO: Larry Lessig on Laws & Creativity [TED, 3/07]

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