Much focus is put on the potential negatives of internet use — but what about the potential positives? While on the internet young people are spending less time in environments where offending may occur.
Drop in crime thought to be caused in part by increased home internet use
A reduction in youth crime in New South Wales, Australia, may be connected to the popularity of social media use and video streaming services, according to research from the Australian National University. The ANU looked at NSW Police data of crime rates for young people who were born in 1984, compared to those born in 1994. It found the number of those who had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved.
Data shows a large reduction in the number of young people committing crime for the first time
Youth crime in New South Wales, Australia, has declined significantly in the last 20 years partly due to young people spending more time at home on the Internet and less time ‘hanging out’ on the street according to new research from The Australian National University (ANU)
The research looked at NSW police data of crime rates for people aged 10-21 who were born in 1984, compared to those born in 1994.
The results showed that by age 21 the proportion of the population that had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved, with particularly noteworthy decreases in vehicle theft down 59%, property theft down 59% and drink-driving down 49%
Other statistics include:
- Violent offending saw a reduction of 32%
- Property offending saw a reduction of 56%
- While drug offending saw a decline of 22%, the smallest of the offence-specific declines. Smaller, but a significant figure nonetheless.
Lead researcher and criminologist Dr Jason Payne of the ANU Research School of Social Sciences said there is little doubt the decline was in part due to the changing habits of young people. "Young people are spending less time in unsupervised environments where opportunistic offending may be more attractive, such as ‘hanging out’ on the streets," Dr Payne said.
"An increased use of home entertainment and social media is also reducing opportunities for traditional forms of crime."
The data shows a large reduction in the number of young people committing crime for the first time, although there remains a ‘hard core’ of prolific offenders.
There were also other factors at play that had helped reduce youth crime.
Police for many years have had diversionary programs, cautioning programs — the kinds of programs designed to stop young people having contact with the criminal justice system for very low-level and minor offences. “That hard work of the police is starting to translate here in this data.”
Dr Payne said the long-term benefits could be significant. "Certainly, hopefully, we might imagine fewer people in prison as a consequence of having invested a lot of time in keeping kids out of the criminal justice system."
Is antisocial behaviour moving online?
We now have kids who are engaging much more often online, using mobile and other portable devices in the home and spending less time out on the street," Dr Payne said. "An increased use of home entertainment and social media is also reducing opportunities for traditional forms of crime."
The ANU study found significant reductions in vehicle and property theft, and drink driving.
"Almost every crime, across the board, declined," Dr Payne said.
"The most significant declines were seen in the property offending categories; shoplifting, motor vehicle theft, those kinds of crimes."
Antisocial behaviour moving online?
However, Dr Payne said the digital environments young people were now using opened the possibility of new criminal activities. "We don’t really know what’s going on significantly in that online world," he said.
"Online bullying, the playing around with hacking techniques are all the things that kids, these days, might be doing that don’t traditionally or easily come to the attention of the criminal justice system.”
"We can’t be blind to the potential transferal or transmission of that behaviour into the online world."
5 Ways to Help Your Children Be Law-Abiding Citizens
As a parent, you are responsible for teaching your children how to be respectful, courteous and kind law-abiding citizens. It is extremely important for you to teach your children at a young age about how important it is to follow the laws in order to maintain a safer world for everyone. Here are 5 suggestions how.