Peer pressure fosters cybercrime

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Teens who have friends who cyberbully or engage in other forms of cybercrime are more likely to be cyberbullies themselves.

The findings, reported in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, reinforce the need for parents to remain aware of what their children—and their children’s friends—are doing on the Internet, says Thomas Holt, assistant professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.

“It’s important to know what your kids are doing when they’re online and who they are associating with both online and offline,” he says.

Cybercrime includes digital piracy (such as stealing music files), viewing online pornography (illegal if under 18), online bullying and harassment (including threatening or sexual messages delivered via e-mail or text message) and cyber-trespassing (which most often involves computer hacking).

Lack of self-control is also a major predictor, and can be more difficult for parents to tackle.

“These are the more risk-taking, impulsive kids; they’re more likely to act on opportunity,” Holt says. “So understanding your children’s potential for behavior is important as well.”

While parental-control software is encouraged, many kids today know how to work around those programs.

“It’s not just enough to have a Net Nanny,” Holt says.

“Parents need to be more proactive with their kids and discuss these ethical dilemmas to using a computer, such as whether it’s right or wrong to steal music or to download something without paying for it.”

Researchers from Georgia Southern University and Eastern Kentucky University contributed to the study.

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