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Teen talk about cyber

Teenagers don’t know who to talk to about activities that could be deemed illegal online, says and IT security product company. A misguided sense of loyalty and not knowing where to turn may explain why half of the 16 to 19 year olds polled (56 per cent) for Kaspersky Lab said they would advise a friend to stop but not tell anyone else. Eighteen per cent stated they would want to tell a teacher or parent but would worry about getting their friend into trouble, and fifteen per cent would only discuss it within their friendship group.

There is nothing new about teenagers pushing the boundaries when it comes to exploring and experimenting online, says Kaspersky; what is new is how they are potentially involving themselves in cybercriminal activity. Only recently an 18 year old was charged with a hacking attack on Mumsnet, which caused the parenting site to reset its 7.7 million members’ passwords.

David Emm, pictured, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab, says: “For young people asserting their newly found freedom online as a young adult, it can be tempting to use their skills to push security boundaries, or even to get drawn into making quick money by engaging in illegal activity online. However, unfortunately it’s much harder to get out of the web a cyber-gang creates than it is to get in. What’s clear from our findings is that peer groups aren’t sure what approach to take with a friend engaging in illegal activity online or where to turn to for advice to support them.”

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Tony Neate, CEO, Get Safe Online, says: “Today’s teenagers are true digital natives – communicating and sharing online is just part and parcel of their daily routine. However, with this freedom to experiment and interact online there needs to be an awareness of the potential risks and behaviours which could cross the line into illegal activity.

“The fact that over half of 16 to 19 year olds said they would advise their friend to stop any potentially illegal activity is certainly reassuring. On the flipside, knowing that many wouldn’t say anything outside of their friendship group means that more needs to be done to offer the right advice and counsel for teenagers. We all have a duty to make them aware of the consequences which are extremely serious – essentially, they will be liable for committing a crime, even if they do it inadvertently. We also need to make sure that teenagers have an appropriate outlet for talking about these things to trusted people.”

Kaspersky adds that the research closely follows findings from earlier this year that show one in ten (12 per cent) of 16 to 19 year olds in the UK know someone who has engaged in a cyber-activity that could be deemed illegal. The poll also found a third (35 per cent) would be impressed if a friend hacked a bank’s website and replaced the homepage with a cartoon, and a deeply worrying one in ten would be impressed if a friend hacked the air traffic control systems of a local airport, demonstrating teenagers can be amused rather than concerned by such activities.

Kaspersky Lab urges parents and schools to create an environment for children where discussions are open and where both parties can agree on what constitutes safe and ethical behaviour online, and to understand the consequences of negative behaviour.

See also the NCA website on ‘Cyber crime: Preventing young people from getting involved‘.


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