Key RIT Cybercrime Research Findings
June 18, 2008
by John Follaco
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SUMMARY: The majority of cyber offenses involving children, adolescents and young adults are perpetrated by peers of approximately the same age or grade level. The old paradigm of adults preying on children has been replaced with the new reality that kids now regularly prey on each other online.
- 48% of students at this grade level interact with people on Web sites, while 50% indicate that their parents watch them when they use a computer, leaving the other half of those youngsters more prone to being exposed to predation behaviors or other threats posed by online strangers or even persons they know or regard as friends.
- 48% reported viewing online content that made them feel uncomfortable, of which 72% reported the experience to a grownup, meaning that one in four children did not.
- 32% of students surveyed report being watched by their parents when they go online.
- 9% report having been “mean to someone online” (cyber bullying) and 18% report that someone online has been mean to them, within the last school year.
- 38% report having been exposed online to something that made them feel uncomfortable, of which 70% indicated that they reported that incident to a grown up, meaning about three in 10 children did not.
- 13% of students report that they used the Internet to talk to people they do not know, 11% report having been asked to describe private things about their body and 10% have been exposed to private things about someone else’s body.
- 27% report that they are completely unsupervised when they go online, while 31% report they are watched by their parents “a little” or “sometimes.”
- Frequently children in these grade levels engage in social networking activities. In the process they post personal, potentially exploitable, information about themselves online. Specifically, and within the last school year: 16% posted personal interests online, 15% posted information about their physical activities and 20% gave out their real name. In addition, 5% posted information about their school, 6% posted their home address, 6% posted their phone number and 9% posted pictures of themselves.
- 12% reported someone pretended to be them online and 13% report someone having used their password or online account without their permission.
- 7% of students reported being the victim of cyber bullying/threats. However, 10% of students have been embarrassed online, which along with harassment is often an aspect of being bullied online.
- Music, movie and software piracy often begins at this age. Within the last school year 8% of students reported they have downloaded music and 3% admitted to downloading movies without paying for these.
- Most victims report the perpetrator of their cyber abuse to be one of their peers, either a girl (in 27% of cases), a boy (in 25% of cases) or a friend they know in-person (36%). Only 16% did not know the person responsible for the cyber offense.
- 34% of middle school students report using the Internet with no supervision, another 36% report receiving only a little supervision.
- 42% report having spoken with at least one online stranger within the past year.
- 39% have posted photos of themselves, 36% have posted their real names, 14% have posted their schedules and personal contact information.
- 9% have accepted an online invitation to meet someone in-person and 10% have asked someone online to meet them in-person.
- 15% have reported being embarrassed online and 13% indicate that they had been bullied or threatened online.
- 14% reported that they had communicated with someone online about sexual things; 11% of students reported that they had been asked to talk about sexual things online; 8% have been exposed to nude pictures and 7% were also asked for nude pictures of themselves online.
- 59% of victims said their perpetrators were a friend they know in-person; 36% said it was someone else they know; 21% said the cyber offender was a classmate; 19% indicated the abuser was an online friend; and 16% said it was an online stranger.
- Students are more likely to be victimized by other students rather than by adults. Further, when peers are identified as perpetrators of cyber offending, 46% of the time they are girls and 42% of the time they are boys. However, only about 12% of known cyber offenders were identified by students as being a man or a woman.
- 22% of middle school students illegally downloaded music within the last school year.
- 11% pretended to be someone else online, 4% admitted to intentionally embarrassing another person online and 4% admitted to harassing or threatening another person online.
- Data also reveal various type of academic dishonesty. 5% admitted to online plagiarism; 5% admitted to cheating on school work and 3% admitted to cheating on tests.
- Within the past year, many students indicated that they have used the Internet to interact with strangers in a variety of ways, including: chatting 48%; flirting 25%; providing personal information 22%; talking about private things 17% and engaging in sexually oriented chat 15%.
- 14% have accepted an invitation to meet an online stranger in-person and 14% of students, who are usually the same individuals, have invited an online stranger to meet them in-person.
- 16% have experienced cyber bullying; 17% have been embarrassed online; and 15% have been harassed or stalked online.
- 23% have been exposed to unwanted pornography and 23% have been asked about sexual things online.
- 21% admitted using a computer or electronic device to cheat on a school assignment within the last school year. 12% admitted plagiarism and 9% reported having used a device to cheat on an exam.
- 65% have illegally downloaded music in the past year; 34% have illegally downloaded movies and 30% have illegally downloaded software.
- 12% of students in high school reported they circumvented computer security systems designed to filter or block their access to Web sites.