Along with the forfeitures and potential punishments, be sure to give guidance. This is probably the most important thing. Explain the importance of ethics, and that any hacking activity is illegal if they don't have the explicit permission of the legal owner or custodian of the systems involved. Even borderline hacking activity, such as uninvited port or vulnerability scanning, is unethical and can be illegal.
Positive outlets for reforming hackers
There are many websites that permit and encourage hacking, and are worth searching out to placate the itch in an innocuous way. Hacking certifications, such as EC-Council's Certified Ethical Hacker, are available to work toward and are very valuable. I've been hacking for nearly 30 years and every certification I've earned has taught me something I did not know and made me a better hacker.
Lastly, connecting your hack-curious teen with a mentor, especially one who has turned their hacking creativity into a legal and well-paying career, can be invaluable. If you don't know anyone else, consider sending me an email. I'll be glad to add yours to the list of kids that I mentor. I can lend guidance similar to what is outlined here and introduce them to other, more dedicated white hat hackers. Most kids think black hat hackers are the super-smart ones. Without a doubt the best hackers I've met have been defenders. After all, these pros build systems that can withstand constant challenges from malicious hackers.
If your child or someone else's child is possibly doing unethical or illegal hacking, show them this article. Those curious teenagers with a love of hacking can always be turned around to the good side.
And that malicious hacking stepson? He's doing great. He has a good, well-paying web programming supervisor job, and he's a great son, father, and ethical human being. I couldn't love him more. We laugh about those many months when it was us against him in the digital world. He thanks me and his mom for stepping in when he needed a little guidance to move away from the darker aspects of hacking.
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