Risky online behavior among young people has “almost normalized” the Internet, research says

Risky and criminal online behavior is at risk of becoming normalized among a younger generation in Europe, according to an EU-funded study which found that one in four 16-19-year-olds have trolled someone online and one in three have trolled online. digital piracy.

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

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

Julia Davidson, co-author of the study and professor of criminology at the University of East London (UEL), said risky and criminal online behavior has become almost normal among a generation of European youth.

“Research shows that a large proportion of young people in the EU engage in some form of cyber-crime, to the extent that low-level crime online and online risk-taking has become almost normal,” he said.

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

Davidson, who conducted the research with her UEL colleague Professor Mary Aiken, said the findings of the study showed that men were more likely to engage in risky or criminal behaviour, with around three-quarters of men admitting to taking any cybercrime or online risk. 65% of women.

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

According to the survey, more than half of participants engaged in behavior that would be considered a crime in most jurisdictions, such as hacking, sharing intimate images without consent, or “money laundering,” where someone receives money from a third party and passes it on. in practice related to the proceeds of cybercrime.

A survey by a research agency with previously used sample groups found that half of 16-19-year-olds spend 4-7 hours a day online, with four in 10 spending more than eight hours a day online, primarily on phones. It was found that the top five platforms among the group were YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok and Snapchat.

The nine countries surveyed were Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Romania. The country with the highest rate of what the study calls “cyberdeviance” – a mix of criminal and non-criminal but risky behavior – is Spain at 75%, followed by Romania, the Netherlands and Germany at around 72%. The UK ranked lowest at 58%.

The research was carried out in collaboration with the cybercrime center at Europol, an agency funded by the EU’s Horizon fund, which works with EU crime agencies across the economic bloc. It calls for more awareness among young people and parents about potentially harmful and risky behavior online.

The results were published amid landmark online regulation in the EU and UK. In the UK, the online safety bill, which will return to parliament next week, will create a number of new offences. These include promoting self-harm online and sharing deep fake pornography, which is images manipulated to look like someone without their consent.

Aiken said: “The online security bill is potentially groundbreaking and addresses key issues facing every country. It can act as a catalyst in bringing the tech industry to account. The bill sets out a number of key measures to protect children and young people; however, our findings suggest that greater emphasis is needed on accountability and prevention, particularly in the context of youth online offending.”

The EU just passed the Digital Services Act, which requires major online platforms and Google to take action against risks such as cyber-bullying against women and online harm to children.

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