Children today are being faced with challenges that did not exist ten or fifteen years ago. Although few of us could imagine day-to-day life without the Internet, the World Wide Web has its share of disadvantages. When you think of online dangers you may think of the images that are accessible online or perhaps the fact that personal information is so easily obtained. You may even be weary of online predators or sex offenders who may be targeting your child. Of all the people in the world that you could think of as one who would commit a cyber crime, could you imagine that children could commit the most offensive cybercrimes? Unfortunately, a recent study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has found just that. According to their summary of the findings of their research “The majority of cyber offenses involving children, adolescents and young adults are perpetrated by peers of approximately the same age or grade level.”
So maybe this information may not be that hard to believe, after all, most kids today have Internet access. But would it surprise you to know that cybercrimes are being committed by even the youngest children, those who are in the first grade, or even kindergarten! About 48% of children in this young age range have interactions with other people on web sites. Only about half of those children indicate that their parents supervise them while they are online. This means that the other half of these children who spend time talking with people online are doing so unsupervised. It is typically this group of unsupervised children that becomes victim to the cyber bullying of others. Sometimes cyber bullying comes from classmates or from other children their same age. Other threats posed to these children came in from adult strangers and some cybercrimes were even committed by family members or friends.
Children are oftentimes the targets of these cyber crimes by adults because of the child’s predisposition to be more trusting of those who they know and less apprehensive than adults around others who are not known. Children can learn at a very early age how to be cruel and sadly the cruelty that can come from someone that is your same age can be overwhelming. Children are being bombarded with opportunities to have crimes committed against them; crimes that such young ones have no skill level to combat.
Even if we take the threat of a live communication away, the Internet poses real risks to even the youngest Internet users. Of those who participated in the RIT research study who were in the kindergarten to first grade age group, 48% reported viewing online content that made them feel uncomfortable. Of these children 72% reported their uncomfortable experience to an adult. Wile 72% may sound like a promising statistic, you must realize that there were still more than a quarter of those children who saw something disturbing and still did not tell an adult about their experience.
Hopefully from obtaining these statistics, at very least an awareness can be reached. This awareness should be one for a need to no longer remain ignorant to the fact that the cyber threats that exist have no age limit on them. Even the very youngest Internet surfers are not safe from predators of both their same age and of adults. Parents have the responsibility to supervise their children and to educate them regarding Internet safety and what they should do if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable. According to these research findings, there is still a lot of work to do when it comes to keeping our children safe from cybercrimes.