Children are naturally curious, and often like to explore how things work. More and more, children are using and experimenting with computers as our world becomes further and reliant on technology. These are skills we want young people to build on, while ensuring they do it in a safe and legal way.
The numbers of young people pushing the boundaries of this experimentation into illegal activity – often unknowingly – is concerning, and on the rise. The average age of arrest for cybercrime is just 17, and we know that some children start crossing the line at primary school age. If we can intervene before this happens, putting young people through the Cyber Choices programme, and teaching them about the Computer Misuse Act, we can avoid criminalising them.
At SEROCU, we know many parents and carers need support in understanding the risks their children face when engaging in online activity. Learning a little more about computers, technology, the law and all the technical jargon yourself, using our resources for parents, will help facilitate open discussions between adults and children about their online activity, as well as their skills and interests in cyber, and help to guide them towards a bright future.
Home Educators, and those with children who are skilled or interested in cyber, may wish to check out our Educational Resources, Training or Careers pages for engaging activities, challenges and information to support their passion.
Help your children to make the right #CyberChoices.
Understanding the law
The Computer Misuse Act 1990 outlines the law around cyber-dependent crime and the Cyber Choices programme was set up to help reduce the risk of offending in this area. Computer Misuse offences – in very simple terms – are concerned with not having the permission of, and/or authorisation from, the device or data owner to complete the action you are carrying out. Find out more about the Computer Misuse Act here.
Alternatively, the NCA has a booklet (in PDF format) that briefly explains the Computer Misuse Act. A useful guide to have on hand when discussing responsible use of the internet.
Penalties under the Computer Misuse Act include prison sentences of anything from 2 years up to Life, dependent on the seriousness of the crime committed. It is vital that young people understand the law around computer misuse, as well as the consequences, so please do discuss this with your children, so they can make informed choices about their use of computers.
If you are concerned that a young person you know may be at risk of committing offences, or may already be doing so, please refer them to us, or speak to the Designated Safeguarding Lead at their school about making a referral. We want to avoid arresting these young people, and instead want to support them in becoming legitimate users of technology with a bright future ahead of them.
Currently, we are running live webinars for parents and carers, to help raise awareness of the Cyber Choices programme and the risks to young people around committing cybercrimes. These are being run on Zoom – registration details are below.
When: Feb 27, 2024 10:00 GMT
When: Feb 28, 2024 20:00 GMT
When: Mar 4, 2024 11:00 GMT
When: Mar 4, 2024 20:00 London
Further to this, we will be posting a video of the webinar content here by end of March 2024.
We have gathered resources that we feel may help parents and carers in having conversations with young people about their digital life and persona. Some are to help you understand technological terminology your children may use, others are to provide guidance on how to protect young people when they are online, or to support you in having constructive conversations with young people about their online activity.
Click on the images to follow links to the resources listed below:
The National Crime Agency (NCA) coordinate the Cyber Choices programme that we deliver at SEROCU. Their website gives an overview for parents/carers, young people and teachers around Cyber Choices. They have a parent/carer guide which you can read or download here.
This video is a simple explainer of the Computer Misuse Act and some of the jargon surrounding it. Great for parents/carers and young people alike to explain the legal boundaries of online activity.
The UK Safer Internet Centre do what their name suggests – they aim to make the internet a safer place, particularly for young people. The UKSIC are the organisation who run “Safer Internet Day” each year, and they have a section dedicated to advice for parents and carers.
The NCSC have put together a useful page with 4 key tips for how best to protect you, your child and your personal data while enjoying gaming online. Useful no matter whether you are gaming on your phone, PC, tablet or console. Read more on their page: Online gaming for families and individuals.
Internet Matters have plenty of advice for parents and young people around online activities, including advice about online gaming and a parent’s guide to Discord, a chat forum commonly used by gamers, where people are able to talk about ways to win or complete levels in games, but may also be exposed to discussions around “booting” or “stressing” (see our glossary, below), both of which are illegal in the UK.
Parent Zone is dedicated to helping families make the most of their online worlds. They offer free services and resources to parents to ensure their children are confident and capable online, and able to make the most of what technology has to offer – while being aware of the risks and harms they will also find. The PZ library is particularly useful, with guides to various computer games, apps and “how-to” guides around setting up and using tech gadgets and consoles.
AskAboutGames is a joint venture between the VSC Rating Board and games trade body Ukie, run with input and advice from across the games industry. They answer questions parents and players have about video game age ratings, provide advice on how to play games safely and responsibly, and offer families helpful tips to ensure they get the most out of the games they enjoy together.
Childnet have lots of resources and advice for parents and carers to help support children and young people in their safe and responsible use of the internet. Everything from leaflets with discussion points to information about reporting specific online concerns.
We know that for many people the language of cyber and cyber security is challenging. We have created a Cyber Glossary for parents, to help translate all the technical jargon you may come across in talking to children about their online use!