Young People & Cyber Criminality

The dangers to youngsters who spend hours on end on their computer or tablet in their bedroom are well documented and include health and social problems. However, one of the most serious risks is that of breaking the law online by using their coding skills to develop malware or get involved in other cyber criminality – either on their own behalf or working for criminal gangs. An increasing number of the high-profile data breaches, financial cybercrimes and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks against small companies, corporates and individual targets alike involve people in their teens and early twenties.

Who is most at risk?

– Young people most likely to get involved in cyber criminality are likely to have a deep interest in technology.

– This is often sparked by an enthusiasm for gaming, which may have led to visiting websites and forums which share computer game cheat codes. These scenarios can be a breeding ground for malware coding and other cyber criminality.

– They may not be sufficiently challenged by school, college or university technology syllabus content.

– In some (but by no means all) cases, they have been diagnosed with forms of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

Research by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) suggests that people as young as 12 years old could be at risk of becoming involved in cyber-dependent criminality. Some reap rich financial rewards, but for others the objective is to complete a challenge, gain a sense of achievement and win a ‘badge of honour’ within their peer group. Most of those affected perceive the likelihood of encountering law enforcement as low, with some not even realising that their actions represent criminal activity.

As a parent or carer, you are unlikely to suspect any criminal activity if a young person in your household spends long periods online, in fact you may think that they are protected as they are ‘safe indoors’.

Potential consequences

   – A visit from law enforcement officers resulting in a warning or possible arrest, fines and/or imprisonment.

– A court order restricting internet access.

– A criminal record, that could affect education and career prospects.

Types of cybercrime

1.  Cyber-dependent crimes (or ‘pure’ cybercrimes) are those that can only be committed using a computer, computer networks or other forms of information communications technology (ICT). An example of a cyber-dependent crime would be conducting a denial-of-service attack, designed to flood a website with traffic in order to stop it operating

2. Cyber-enabled crimes are traditional crimes which can be increase in their scale or reach by the use of computers and the internet. Examples would be online mass-marketing frauds and consumer scams.

If you have a concern

If you are concerned that your child or another young person you know is making the wrong cyber choices, you should contact the police.

Careers using coding and other computer skills

There are many opportunities for teenagers to turn their coding and other computer talents to satisfying and financially rewarding careers. The chronic global cyber skills shortage has resulted in a huge number of such opportunities in gaming, social media and other tech companies, and government and law enforcement agencies.

Please see the following links for guidance:


Free (for students) – online browser-based virtual learning for all abilities


Free online Cybersecurity training with a choice of hundreds of courses


Free online videos, exercises, programmes in cybersecurity


Watch the UK NCA’s video on helping young people make the right cyberchoices




Jargon Buster

A Glossary of terms used in this article:


A list of personal details revealed by users of social networking, gaming, dating and other websites. Profiles may normally be configured to be public or private.