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Computer Virus Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Humans aren't the only things that get sick from time to time. In this lesson, learn the definition of a computer virus, how these viruses work, and ways you can keep your computer safe and healthy.

Computer Coding

It's pretty hard to imagine a world without computers. You probably use them every day at school or at home. How do computers work? They use something called code to operate, which is a set of directions written by a human telling the computer what to do when you play a video game, type a document, or perform any other computer function. These codes are helpful, but sometimes they can actually be harmful and make your computer sick.

When you get sick, what do you do? You probably go to the doctor and get medicine, rest and have some chicken noodle soup. So what exactly happens when a computer gets sick? There are ways to treat it, and even better, there are ways to prevent the sickness from happening. And no, it doesn't involve chicken soup!

Virus Code

Most people who write computer code do it for good reasons. They might want to invent a new game or create a new way for a computer function to be completed. Unfortunately, there are people who write code for not-so-good reasons.

Computer viruses come from code that's written specifically to harm a computer. This code gets inside of the computer and attaches itself to another computer program, called a host. The virus code attacks the host, kind of like a virus in your body tries to attack your immune system.

Computers can get viruses, which come from specific types of code.
virus computer

Virus Infection

Unfortunately, once a virus code is attached to a host, a lot of damage can be done. The virus starts to replicate, or create more of itself over and over. Then it spreads throughout the computer and can erase important parts of the system, like files that have been saved, or it can damage the hard drive, where all kinds of information is stored. This is really dangerous if people have sensitive information stored on their computers, like secret passwords for accounts.

A virus can also attack email contacts that might be stored on a computer. This is not a good situation, because then people receive emails with the virus attached. Now the bad code isn't limited to infecting one computer, but it has been spread through email. A single virus can be spread around the world in a small amount of time.

Dangerous codes can travel throughout the world if emails are sent with the virus.
computer code

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