Cyber juvenile delinquencies: Side effects of Internet and social networking sites

Cyber juvenile delinquencies: Side effects of internet and social networking sites

(K Sanjay Kumar Gurudin, an IPS officer of the 2005 batch, Kerala cadre, is a socially conscious cop, a well-known cyber expert, and an author of the must-read book 'Is Your Child Safe?' He has had an outstanding and illustrious career as superintendent of police in Kerala)

• Recently, 4 hackers were arrested by police who used to book free online tickets for buses on website through compromising payment gateway traffic. Among the arrested were B-tech students and other two were juveniles, studying in class 11. They had created a closed Facebook and WhatsApp group to share bugs and exploits. Shockingly the group members were spread across the country (Hacking).

• A complaint was received from two lady teachers of a leading high school in Thiruvananthapuram alleging that somebody had created their Fake Facebook profiles and uploaded about 16 morphed pornographic images with their faces and sent out friend requests. The culprit was a 12-year-old boy studying in 8th standard of the school. He had prepared the images in his home computer (Cyberbullying).

• An eight-year-old girl in Dehradun was allegedly gang-raped by five minor boys after they watched pornography on a mobile phone. The alleged gang rape took place in Vikas Nagar area of Dehradun, Uttarakhand. All the accused are aged between nine and 14 years (Pornography). In a similar incident, after watching porn clips on the mobile, four minor boys aged between 7 and 12 years sexually assaulted a 4-year-old minor girl in Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

• The Anti-Piracy wing of Kerala police arrested three youngsters, all plus-two students, for allegedly uploading a copy of the newly-released Malayalam movie on the net (Digital Piracy).

• As per the challenge, the participant has to move out of a slow-moving car and dance on the track 'In My Feelings' recreating the signature steps. The driver will record the video, which will go on social media with hashtag #KiKiChallenge. It started off with a bit of fun but now it has become a global safety issue. Police around the world are warning people against the challenge (Social media challenges).

These are just some examples of cyber juvenile delinquencies in the recent times in various parts of country.

While the internet offers countless benefits, it also fosters the development of cybercrime and deviant subcultures. Its dark side means that children with deviant interests are now able to more freely act upon these and communicate with other like-minded individuals. Today's children grow up with access to computers that are networked to the rest of the world through the Internet.

Children love to explore and experiment, as they have always done, which is an important element of their learning process. Unfortunately, that exploration and experimentation can lead them to some virtual 'places' that are not legal and turn them into criminals (or juvenile delinquents) even without they being aware of it.

Most common juvenile delinquencies:

Very common childhood behaviour, teasing other kids about their character, looks, their names, for being too dark, too dumb or smart, too tall or too short, in the schools has now turned into something far more ominous-sounding when taken online. India ranks 3rd in the world in cyberbullying, many children are committing this offence without understanding the consequences and coming in conflict with law.

In addition to cyberbullying, one of the most common online offences committed by juveniles is 'digital piracy' - sharing and/or downloading of software and digital music and movies without the permission of the copyright holder. Most students don't consider such downloading to be stealing and don't believe it's morally wrong. Probably they think that when you download a copy of a song, you don't deprive the owner of the use of that song, as you do when you steal a tangible item. Kids have a hard time understanding abstractions.

Another common juvenile cybercrime is viewing and sharing of pornographic material and sometimes committing sexual offence. A profound interest in sex is a part of human nature and teenagers are awash with hormones that make this 'crime' very common, given the temptation of all that easily available porn on the Internet. The availability and use of pornography has become almost ubiquitous among adolescents.

Studies reveals that 'male subjects demonstrated increased callousness toward women. Subjects considered the crime of rape less serious. The use of pornography can result in violent and sexually aggressive attitudes towards women. Men who consume pornography are more likely to adopt rape myth ideology, which is that women cause rape or actually enjoy rape or sexual assault' and these could lead to deviant sexual behaviour resulting in crime.

Computer/system (Hacking) is another of the most common juvenile cybercrimes. The stereotypical hacker is a teenager who breaks into remote systems not for the purpose of stealing and using information, but merely to prove to himself and others that he has the skills to do it. In some cases, however, that teenager can be prosecuted under the same laws as a terrorist or any other criminal who hacks into systems committing cybercrimes. Sexting is more common among teenagers who spend a lot of time texting. It is making, viewing and distribution of self-produced sexual images. Those who sext are also more likely to be sexually active and may be more likely to be involved in sexually risky behaviours.

What needs to be done?

Education and creating awareness may be enough in some cases; most young people are unaware of the intricacies of the law. They do not understand the severity of the possible consequences. For less serious juvenile offenders, the behaviour of the children may change simply in the course of growing up. Teaching children online discipline (ethical and moral) will go a long way in solving the problems like cyberbullying and cyber-vandalism. Parents should inculcate empathy in them.

Children have the illusion that their actions online are anonymous. They think that nobody will ever come to know about their illegal activities online and feel that anything that happens in the cyber world is not 'real.' With such thoughts, they tend to ill-treat the person on the other end of the network. Cybercrime, such as cyberbullying, copyright violations, piracy, online grooming, and child pornography, are going to scale up. It may be time to take a serious look at the system that spurns these acts. Again, education and personal growth are key to positive change.

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