Cybercrimes in Elementary School

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by Barbara J. Feldman on February 20, 2009

Even the most diligent parents can benefit from an increased level of awareness when it comes to Internet safety for their children. The Internet is quickly evolving, as is our children’s understanding of how to use the Internet, as well as their accessibility to the Internet. The term “cybercrime” is a term that is used to describe a crime that is committed through the Internet. These crimes are often different depending on the age of the child, as too are the ways that children of different age levels approach these problems. A recent study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has brought to light what most would consider to be some disturbing statistics that outline just how prevalent cybercrimes are in the lives of even our elementary school aged children and how clueless some of us parents are when it comes to preventing these crimes and knowing when they occur.

Second and Third Grade

The RIT research results were broken down into categories based on grade levels. Of the second and third graders who participated in the study, 32% of students surveyed reported that they were supervised by a parent while they were online. When asked if they had been “mean to someone online” (also referred to as cyber bullying) 9% indicated that they had been mean to someone else and 18% reported that someone had been mean to them online within the period of the last school year. Thirty eight percent of these children reported having been exposed online to something that made them feel uncomfortable. When it came to talking to strangers, 13% of students report that they used the Internet to talk to people they do not know. What’s even more disturbing is that 11% of those who spoke with strangers online reported having been asked to describe private things about their body and 10% have been exposed to private things about someone else’s body.

Fourth Grade to Sixth Grade

Of the fourth to sixth grade children that participated in the RIT research study, 27% reported that they are completely unsupervised when they go online and only 31% reported that their parents “a little” or “sometimes” watches them. The following results are interesting as they relate specifically to the social networking activities that children in this age range participate in. As a reminder, the typical age of a fourth grader is ten years old (these statistics are taken directly from the RIT cybercrime research):

Of the fourth and sixth graders who used the Internet as a social forum:

• 16% posted personal interests online.
• 15% posted information about their physical activities and 20% gave out their real name.
• 5% posted information about their school.
• 6% posted their home address
• 6% posted their phone number
• 9% posted pictures of themselves.
• 12% reported someone pretended to be them online
• 13% report someone having used their password or online account without their permission.

In this age group, 7% of students reported being the victim of cyber bullying or cyber threats (10% of those who indicated that they were cyber bullied indicated that being embarrassed online was one of the factors they included in being bullied). Most victims of bullying reported that the cyber bullying came from one of their peers. Girls were reported as being the perpetrator of the bullying in 27% of cases, while boys were blamed in 25% of cases. Sixteen percent did not know the person responsible for the cyber offense.

Internet crimes often begin around this age, meaning that music, movie and software piracy in children this age is not unheard of. Children were asked about their illegal downloading over the last school year and 8% of students reported they had downloaded music and 3% admitted to downloading movies without paying for either one of these.


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