We all worry there will come a time when our kids are smarter than us regarding one aspect of our life. It is true, they will. The topic where they will most likely surpass us, generally speaking, is with technology. Computers are much more common place today than they were when I was a kid, but I was attracted to the fast paced computer world long before my peers. So it is no surprise that my kids pick things up early and faster than I ever did. Being in the Information Technology field, I can not allow them to ever surpass me, although I know this will put my abilities to the test.
I can recall Thanksgiving at my in-laws house when my first son was eighteen months old. We were sitting around the dinner table enjoying the meal when we heard modem tones coming from my in-laws den. My son always enjoyed sitting on my lap while I checked email from an early age so it was no surprise he knew what the mouse was for. From there it was just a few simple clicks away from getting the right icon that opened up my in-laws internet account. I ran into the den and captured my little guy before he could do any damage to his grandfather’s account, but it made for a good laugh around the table. “Of course your son would know how to do that” and “When can we expect the authorities to start showing up at your house” is where the discussion led.
All my kids get excited when I would hold them on my lap to check email, or look up something up online. Being a technophile, I can’t let my kids get behind in technology. My wife just rolls her eyes and murmurs how she would have to fix the kids later. Somewhere between 2 and 3 the kids would start to play simple games either with my help or by themselves. Granted, I still have a son who is in this phase, and a daughter who enjoys trying to steal the mouse. They are in training.
After picking my oldest up from school one day, who was four at the time, he picked up a book I had next to him on the back seat. Mind you, he wasn’t reading words yet, but he could understand pictures and he asked why the brick wall was on fire. We discussed how he was looking at a network diagram and the “firewall” was meant to be a layer of protection against the bad people trying to get in. “Bad people are trying to get onto our computer” he inquired. I explained that possibly yes, and that we needed to always be careful online. In the years to come he took this advice to heart and tried to be a security evangelist around the neighborhood and at school. Those stories are for another time.
It should come as no surprise, although it did, when he called me at work and told me the firewall on the computer was not working. Yes, he does know the difference between a hardware and software based firewall. I asked him to tell me what the problem was, and he explained Firefox could not get to the internet. I asked him to check the cable modem and make sure all the proper lights were blinking on the router. “Yes daddy, I checked all those. It is the firewall.” I told him I would check everything when I got home.
I had applied a patch the night before, so when I got home and looked at the computer I realized he was right. The firewall was not functioning properly, blocking all outbound traffic. I confirmed his root cause analysis to which he enthusiastically ran around the house proclaiming “I FIXED THE COMPUTER, IT WAS THE FIREWALL.” I know I have my hands full with my kids in this digital age, and I know what I am doing. Most of the time anyway.