What Parents Should Know About P2P Networking

It’s likely that you, as a parent, have never even heard of P2P networking.  On the other hand, you probably have P2P file sharing software on your computer, programs such as Kazaa, Morpheus or BitTorrent.

P2P (or Peer to Peer) software is designed to share files between computers and is most commonly used to download and share songs.  In and of itself, it’s harmless.  However, there definitely are concerns you, as a parent, should be aware of.

One is simply the legality of the sharing that’s being done.  For example, there have been many lawsuits filed against individuals because of illegal downloads of copyrighted material, particularly music and movies.  Even if your child is a minor doesn’t mean that you, as their parent, are not legally vulnerable. 

There have been thousands of lawsuits and expensive settlements, so make sure you have set strong guidelines with your children about what can and cannot be downloaded.

Speaking of downloads, you also might find that what is being downloaded is not just music or movies, no matter how legal.  Some of the most popular P2P software, such as Kazaa and Morpheus, includes adware, sometimes lots of it.  This so-called adware is additional programs that are automatically installed on your computer that, in turn, download ads, hijack your browser, install toolbars, and even make your computer run reeeeaaaallllyyy slow. 

Indeed, you won’t even know what’s installed unless you read the small print in the license…and who ever reads that?  This is particularly true for the free versions of P2P software.  So don’t believe it when a site advertises “adware free” – they may very well only be talking about the paid version, if that.  Indeed, they could be a scam site fooling innocent people into installing harmful software.

Even worse, there are many free downloads that, themselves, come with nasty little packages inside, particularly unexpected trojans or adult content.  In fact, you can almost bet that if you download “free” software because you want to avoid having to buy it, you’re going to get an unpleasant surprise. 

Your children should not be allowed to download anything they want without discussing it with you first or from a site you have approved.  P2P networking is great, as long as you’re wary.

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