Are we teaching the next generation of hackers?

The internet is important. This generation has to at least have a basic understanding of it to survive in this world. ‘Good understanding of Microsoft Word/PowerPoint/Excel’ has moved from a ‘desirable’ skill in job applications to an ‘essential’ skill.

Libraries and teaching establishments around the UK are offering computing skills courses to adults for free. That’s how important it is to know how to use a computer. More important than driving, or going to university.

Whilst adults may struggle with the concept of computers and the internet, it is integrated into today’s children’s everyday lives.  We teach our children how to use a computer. We use it to enhance their learning in other subjects – online literacy and numeracy games are assisted by a cartoon character appearing on the screen telling them ‘Good job!’. They are so used to it, it’s second nature.

Children are being taught ICT skills in school, every week they are encouraged to make colourful PowerPoints, type their homework up on a computer and print it to share with the class. However, they are also being taught how to program. Computer programming, if executed at a high enough level can control machines; that includes other people’s computers.

However, there is also the question of should we be encouraging and teaching children how to computer program? Could this interest and these skills lead to something unlawful? Are we teaching the next generation of hackers? With the ‘sexy’ way fictional hackers are portrayed (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and more recently Mr. Robot) could this tempt children to use their school-taught skill for something more sinister?