One in five children found to engage in illegal activity online


The National Crime Agency is calling on parents and teachers to help young people understand the implications of their behaviour online, raising concerns about the rise in cyber crime

The ask comes after a recent survey of children aged 10-16 showed that 20% engage in behaviours that violate the Computer Misuse Act, which criminalises unauthorised access to computer systems and data. The figure is higher for those who game, standing at 25%.

The consequences of committing Computer Misuse Act offences are serious. In addition to being arrested and potentially given a criminal record, those caught can have their phone or computer taken away from them, risk expulsion from school, and face limits on their internet use, career opportunities and international travel.

Many offenders participating in low level cyber crime are unaware that their actions are criminal, but can progress to participate in more complex, serious offending after a short period of time.

Examples of low-level offending include downloading software to get access to someone else’s device, trying to access a protected server or buying something using the saved card details on someone else’s account.  Gamers who make in-game purchases without the permission of the account holder or engage in DDoS-ing are breaking the law, despite often doing so unwittingly.

Parents and teachers of those aged 10-16 are encouraged to help their children understand the severity of these offences and develop their skills in positive ways.

Skills in coding, gaming, cyber security or anything digital related are in high demand, both in the UK and abroad, and those with talent have many lucrative and legal options open to them.

For those looking for guidance, the Agency’s dedicated website, Cyber Choices, provides resources on the Computer Misuse Act, as well as information on online training, further education and future careers.

NCA Deputy Director Paul Foster, Head of the National Cyber Crime Unit, said:

“Many young people are getting involved in cyber crime without realising that they are breaking the law.

“Our message to these teenagers is simple – don’t play games with your future.

“Whether you engage in this behaviour knowingly or without realising, you are committing an offence – and could face serious consequences for your actions.

“We’d encourage any concerned parents and teachers to speak to young people with an interest in tech, help them understand the dangers, and highlight the many rewarding and varied careers available to them.

“Our Cyber Choices team are here to help children, teachers and parents with advice and guidance.”

The NCA’s campaign tackling the issue will run for the next 3 weeks and includes video content on Snapchat and YouTube that will reach over 3 million young people.