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Cybercrime in the News and Creative Fuse

In February, the Prime Minister announced plans to tackle crime and abusive behaviour online. These plans promise to put into action the recommendations made in the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper, published in October 2017. This paper advised that there should be parity in the way that online and offline behaviour is regulated and criminalised. Technology companies were targeted as having the potential to play a bigger role in identifying and preventing unacceptable online behaviour. Theresa May has announced these recommendations will be addressed through a review of current legislation and the creation of a code of conduct for social media companies.

Creative Fuse Research

These policy announcements are very timely, and coincide with our Creative Fuse research into Cybercrime. The Innovation Pilot Project Cybercrime: Public Awareness & Behaviour was led by Northumbria University in partnership with Northumbria Police and digital SMEs throughout the region. This project explored ways to raise awareness of cybercrime in order to change unsafe behaviours online – with a particular focus on young people. Multidisciplinary Innovation students and academics conducted creative problem-framing and definition activities, including a Solution Hack Event in October 2017.

Through co-creative workshops with young people, parents, representatives from the police and cyber-security specialists, we explored how young people use the internet and how their behaviour could be positively influenced. This research, and a review of existing educational resources, identified that young people know many of the broad ‘rules’ about keeping safe online, but don’t necessarily abide by them. Current resources, which presented simplified “do and don’t” rules had low levels of engagement and uptake amongst the young people involved in the research.

Our Recommendations

One way to reduce the numbers of young people how are victims or perpetrators of cybercrimes may be to focus on the role of legislation and technology companies, as outlined in Theresa May’s announcements. However, the Creative Fuse Cybercrime team propose another course of action.

Our research suggests that we might be able to better equip young people to use the internet in positive ways by providing them with critical thinking skills alongside accurate, relevant, and detailed information – not just a set of generalised rules for what not to do online. Of course, producing engaging and sophisticated resources that stimulate debate and critical thinking amongst young people is easier said than done – but we believe this could be achieved through fusion between education providers and businesses from the creative and digital sectors.

Education for a Connected World

Alongside Theresa May’s policy on regulation, Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) announced a new framework, Education for a Connected Worldto support parents, teachers and carers in helping young people stay safe online. The new guide provides a comprehensive overview of the critical skills young people of different ages should be able to apply to various cyber-wellbeing issues, and makes a refreshing change in its focus on skills and attitudes rather than behaviours.

This guide is a great step in the right direction, providing tailored frameworks for different age groups which focus on developing the capabilities that enable a young person to make decisions which foster positive cyber-wellbeing. This contrasts with many existing resources, which simply prescribe how young people should behave online.  Further to this, the guide takes a wide-ranging approach to internet safety – focusing on sophisticated topics such as self-image, online reputation, and health, wellbeing & lifestyle in addition to the more common themes such as privacy, password protection and copyright.

Next Steps

The research collected during the Creative Fuse pilot suggested ways that this guide could be built upon. We found that educators did not necessarily have current or accurate knowledge of young people’s use of the internet to confidently deliver meaningful advice which includes the levels of depth and complexity young people need.

The potential remains to explore what interventions could be developed which provide opportunities to deliver current, relevant and authentic information. Whilst Education for a Connected World identifies the skills young people need, it would be beneficial to now also consider how we can facilitate the development of these skills – for example through debating cyber wellbeing in ways which develop the critical thinking skills outlined in the guide.

We would hope that through the debates that new resources and interventions could stimulate, young people would be equipped to use the internet and new technologies – in whatever forms they take in the future – both safely and positively.

This blog was written by the Cybercrime: Public Awareness & Behaviour project team at Northumbria University.
All ‘Fused Views’ Blogs aim to present a variety of views and voices in the Creative, Digital and IT sector. The opinions included in the above blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the wider Creative Fuse North East team. You can respond to this article by mentioning us on Twitter @CreativeFuseNE or by completing a contact form. We may follow up on a selection of responses for future blog posts.