What is it?

BitTorrent is a system that helps people share large files between computers. It is also an example of peer-to-peer (P2P) software. Because it was originally open source, other developers have created different versions with differing features from the original source code.

How does it work?

Normally when downloading a file from one computer to another, your computer uses the server of the host site (the one with the data you are downloading). But with massive files and potentially thousands of computers downloading the same data at the same time, servers can crash and the host site can close down.

With the BitTorrent process (also known as a protocol), computers accessing the file also provide parts of the file to other computers to download the file creating a temporary network.

Why is it useful?

BitTorrent allows large files to be downloaded by a lot of users (also known as clients) at the same time.

What do you need to keep in mind about your child and BitTorrent?

Unfortunately, some people use BitTorrent to download data they do not have the right to take (or give), such as movies and TV programs that others have uploaded online. Because this means that everyone who downloads the data is breaking the law, new computer programs are being created to trace users by their IP address (an identification of the user) to potentially prosecute them for piracy.

Just as you would not want your child to steal anything belonging to someone else, taking digital files (data) on the internet without permission is also wrong. Along with stiff penalties for piracy, it is a good idea to discuss the appropriate use of BitTorrent and all file sharing programs with your child.

The other big trap with P2P file sharing is that it can lead to huge, unexpected internet bills. This happens because P2P programs use your computer as a source of file for other P2P users and if you are charged for uploaded data and exceed your monthly allowance, you will be charged. It is not unheard of for people getting a monthly bill for thousands of dollars for this reason.

Want to know more?

Visit the BitTorrent website.

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