A young person’s experience of digital piracy

Hannah shares her experience of downloading and watching pirated content online and how her parents supported her in managing the associated risks.

Previously my usual viewing habits mainly included quite a bit of YouTube where I follow lots of content creators, and then TV shows on online streaming services like Netflix and Disney+. For movies and sports, I use streaming platforms and occasionally satellite TV. I mainly watch content on my own, on my laptop or phone, but a couple of times a week I’ll watch things with family and friends so occasionally I’ll watch via Apple TV or PlayStation.

A lot of TV shows I watched were through illegal sites that I would find via Google search, and that was mainly TV shows in the US that obviously weren’t available here. I would find websites which were dedicated to a whole TV show so that I would watch through that, and occasionally if movies weren’t on Netflix or Disney+ then I’d watch it from a movie streaming site, and the same with live sports if they aren’t covered by a broadcaster. I mainly hear about these sites through friends and also just researching how to watch things myself.

Seeing inappropriate content as a result of digital piracy

When I was about 14 I was on a laptop from school and watching How I Met Your Mother on an unofficial online site. I got a bunch of viruses downloaded onto my laptop which slowed the whole thing down – there were constant pop-up ads and it made it really irritating to try and work on the laptop. I was kind of scared at the time, I felt like I was going to get in trouble because it was a lot of pornographic ads which obviously isn’t great if you’re 14.

I told my parents after a day or two because I tried to get rid of them myself but I didn’t know how. My Dad ran an anti-viral software on the laptop which kind of cleaned things up, he told me to make sure I didn’t do it again and to be careful in the future, and I have basically stopped watching things from these sites now. If my Dad hadn’t got the software already that would have cost us money to buy, and if the school found the damage that would have been a bigger financial impact on us because of all of this.

Hacking incident in social account

I also had trouble when I was 15 or 16 when I was watching something on my phone, and again a bunch of ads popped up and the same problems happened. I can’t remember if it was the same website but it was along the same lines. After that, I got quite a few of my posts deleted on my Instagram and then spam messages got sent out from my messenger to a bunch of people telling them they have “won a prize”. I couldn’t get the Instagram posts back and I had to go through my inbox and tell people not to click the links that were sent, so I’ve definitely learned from the experience as it’s something that probably couldn’t have happened if I did the right stuff and made sure that I was watching it from a proper website.

Support from family and school

Luckily with my parents and the school, nothing too bad happened because I was so young, obviously, there was a bit of embarrassment and worry that there would be some repercussions with it, but they just made sure I learned from it and didn’t keep doing this stuff. It’s kind of a shock to know you can be affected that badly, especially when you are young, and it did feel odd to know that someone had been in my social media account, so I made sure I changed all of my passwords.

I obviously feel a bit annoyed at the people who hacked me, and I while I understand the ads, I don’t necessarily understand why they deleted my posts on Instagram, it’s just really annoying and a massive inconvenience. I mainly hold myself responsible though, because it’s a pirated website, so I’m at fault for it because I’m the one who did something illegal. I’m definitely more willing to pay for content than go on pirated sites as it’s not the best for the people who actually made the content, and I know that there is a reason that the content is not available in your region, so if  I was to give advice to my younger self I would say if you are going to use these kinds of websites be careful and limit how much you use them, or just wait until the content comes to your country.

Resources

Visit The Dangers of Piracy advice hub for more support

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