Social criminology


Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “The seductions of cybercrime: Adolescence and the thrills of digital transgression”, by Goldsmith, A. and Wall, D. S. (2022), in which authors think about what seduces young people from cybercrime, and also give ideas on what can be done in terms of criminal policy and education to mitigate the negative effects of new technologies.

The Internet is a public tool that has been with us in our daily lives for more than 30 years. However, in this time, it has captivated and seduced more than half of the planet’s population. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 billion people were internet users as of June 30, 2019. 

Young people under the age of 30, who have grown up with the internet and have grown up with it, are more likely than older people to have access to it and spend more time surfing the web, searching, playing games and using social networks, among other activities. 

Internet possibilities are virtually limitless, as is its appeal for entertainment, leisure and distraction. Given its relative novelty and global reach, much attention has been paid in recent years to the disadvantages that have emerged. 

Above all, there is great concern about Internet safety, such as its use by adults to exploit children, or its use by children to bully other minors. 

In this article, authors explore the importance of the Internet in terms of attractiveness to teenagers between 12-19 years. 

To do so, they use as a basis a 1988 study by Jack Katz on juvenile burglars and graffiti artists because authors believe it provides them with some useful analogies for thinking about the connection between the emotional impulses of young people and the commission of crime.

But why are young people a special population group? We have already discussed it in older posts, but let’s dig a little deeper. 

This group has three main socioemotional tasks: developing an identity, learning about intimacy, and discovering their sexuality. They seek information and validation, through communication with their peers in particular. In addition, they are often drawn to extreme and risky content and stimuli, but as they grow older, they are also interested in personal autonomy and adult life. During adolescence there is also considerable impulsivity that often limits young people’s capacity for self-control. 

The Internet responds to these needs for autonomy, competence and relationships. 

Within environmental criminology, Clarke proposes the idea that individuals without pre-existing dispositions to crime may be drawn into criminal behavior by the proliferation of opportunities. That is, situations could shape motivations through suggestion and intensification of feelings, along with opportunities to commit crime. And we already know that the Internet is, first and foremost, the opportunity for opportunity. 

Authors focus on several crimes: they talk about piracy, harassment (sexual and not sexual) and other crime typologies, but they focus on the consumption of pornography as a criminogenic factor. 

In an experiment conducted in the UK, an apparently legal website was observed for 88 days, which, once inside, offered the opportunity to connect to hardcore pornography websites. It had 803 visitors during this time, and of these, 457 people clicked on the advert for the pornography page, leading the researchers to the conclusion that most internet users would not resist the temptation. 

There seems to be little doubt that, at least in some cases of serious sexual offenses, online pornography consumption is involved in one way or another. Of great concern is that the first exposure to online pornography is occurring earlier and earlier, during early adolescence or even childhood. The exposure of minors to the Internet for long periods of time and without supervision makes them more vulnerable to this type of content, to which they sometimes access involuntarily. 

If we add this to the idea that young people look for strong emotions, are more impulsive and are attracted to the most extreme and transgressive content, often out of simple curiosity, we have a problem that can be serious. 

For many young people, the Internet is a rich, seductive place, full of attractive offers and “forbidden” emotions. For those who are prone to curiosity and sensation seeking, it can be very difficult not to give in to its charms.

Without ignoring class, peer influence, family background, poverty or addictions, there must be a deeper understanding of the persuasiveness of technologies in operating in young people’s lives. 

Policy should consist of interventions that consider, in general, the lack of life experience of young people who commit their first offenses under the influence of or through the Internet, and authors argue that punitive responses should be applied sparingly. 

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