Understanding Children's Cyber Choices: A Call to Action

Sara Spinks 19 March 2024 1 min read
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In today's digital age, where the internet plays such an integral part of daily life, ensuring children understand the implications of their online behaviour is crucial. Recent findings published this month by the National Crime Agency (NCA) have raised concerns about the increasing involvement of young people in cybercrime activities.

With one in five children aged 10-16 found to engage in behaviours violating the Computer Misuse Act, it's evident that more awareness and education are needed to address this issue.

The consequences of committing offences under the Computer Misuse Act are significant and can have long-lasting effects on a young person's future. Beyond potential arrest and criminal records, offenders risk having their electronic devices confiscated, expulsion from school, limitations on internet use, their career prospects, and even international travel opportunities. Despite the severity of these repercussions, many young offenders are unaware that their actions constitute criminal behaviour.

Examples of low-level cybercrime include unauthorised access to computer systems or data, attempting to breach protected servers, or making unauthorised purchases using saved card details. Even seemingly innocuous actions, such as making in-game purchases without permission or participating in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, can land young people in trouble, with legal ramifications.

To address this issue, the NCA is urging parents and teachers to play an active role in educating young people about cyber choices. Parents and educators can steer children away from criminal behaviour by helping them understand the severity of cyber offences and by guiding them towards positive digital activities.

It’s worth highlighting that skills in coding, gaming, and cybersecurity are highly sought after in today's job market, presenting numerous legal and lucrative career opportunities for talented individuals. Rather than engaging in cybercrime, young people should be aware of the criminal ramifications and directed to channel their interests and abilities into productive and fulfilling careers.

Commenting on this issue, Deputy Director of the NCA, Paul Foster, emphasiseds the importance of educating young people about the risks associated with cybercrime and the abundance of legal career options available to them. For guidance and resources on understanding the Computer Misuse Act and exploring future career paths in technology, the NCA's dedicated website, Cyber Choices, offers valuable information.

The NCA's campaign to raise awareness among young people through targeted video content on platforms like Snapchat and YouTube, aims to reach millions of adolescents nationwide. By engaging with young people directly and providing them with the necessary information and support, the NCA hopes to deter them from engaging in cybercrime and steer them towards positive digital pursuits.

However, to address the issue of youth involvement in cybercrime, a collective effort from parents, teachers, and law enforcement agencies is required. By fostering awareness, understanding, and support, we can empower young people to make informed and responsible choices online, safeguarding their futures and the integrity of the digital world.

Sara Spinks

SSS Author & Former Headteacher

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