Risky online behaviors ‘almost normalized’ among young people, study finds

Risky and criminal online behavior is likely to become normalized among a generation of young people across Europe, according to an EU-funded study. digital piracy.

An EU-funded study found evidence of widespread criminal, risky and delinquent behavior among 16-19 year olds in nine European countries, including the UK.

A survey of 8,000 young people found that one in four have stalked or stalked someone online, one in eight have engaged in online harassment, one in 10 have engaged in hate speech or hacking, one in five have engaged in sexting and one in three have engaged in digital piracy. It also found that four out of 10 people have watched pornography.

Julia Davidson, co-author of the research and professor of criminology at the University of East London (UEL), said risky and criminal behavior online was becoming almost normalized among a generation of young Europeans.

“Research indicates that a large proportion of young people in the EU engage in some form of cybercrime, so much so that the conduct of low-level crimes online and the taking of risks online have become almost normalized. “, she said.

Risky and criminal behavior among 16-19 year olds – graph

Davidson, who led the research with her UEL colleague Professor Mary Aiken, said the research results indicated greater involvement of men in risky or criminal behavior, with almost three-quarters of men admitting some form of cybercrime or online risk taking, compared to 65% of women.

The survey asked young people about 20 types of behavior online, including viewing pornography, posting revenge porn, creating self-generated sexual images and posting hate speech.

According to survey results, just under half of participants engaged in behavior that could be considered criminal in most jurisdictions, such as hacking, non-consensual sharing of intimate images or money mulling. – where someone receives money from a third party and passes it on, in a practice related to cybercrime proceeds.

The survey, conducted by a research agency with previously used sample groups, found that half of 16- to 19-year-olds spent four to seven hours a day online, with nearly four in 10 spending more than eight hours a day. online, mostly on phones. He revealed that the group’s top five platforms are YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok and Snapchat.

The nine countries in the survey were the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Romania. The country with the highest proportion of what the study calls “cyberdeviance” – a mixture of criminal and non-criminal but risky behavior – was Spain at 75%, followed by Romania, the Netherlands and Germany at around 72%. The UK was down at 58%.

The study was undertaken in conjunction with the Cybercrime Center of Europol, an EU body that works with criminal agencies across the economic bloc, and funded by the EU’s Horizon fund. It calls for greater education of young people and parents about potentially harmful and dangerous behavior online.

The results were published against the backdrop of historic online regulation in the EU and the UK. In the UK, the Online Safety Bill, which returns to Parliament next week, would create a number of new criminal offences. These include encouraging self-harm online and sharing deepfake pornography, which is images that have been manipulated to look like someone without their consent.

Aiken said, “The Online Safety Bill is potentially groundbreaking and addresses key issues facing all countries. This could act as a catalyst to hold the tech industry to account. The bill sets out a series of key measures to protect children and young people; however, our findings suggest that more emphasis should be placed on accountability and prevention, particularly in the context of online youth offending.

The EU has just passed the Digital Services Act, which requires major online platforms and Google to take action against risks such as cyberviolence against women and online child abuse.

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