Preventing cybercrime: a parent’s guide

Image: Still from National Crime Agency film campaign: Teenage cybercrime: Help your child make the right #CyberChoices 

The National Crime Agency’s new #CyberChoices campaign aims to warn parents of the dangers of young people becoming involved in cybercrime.

'Over the past few years, the NCA has seen the people engaging in cybercrime becoming younger and younger,’ explains Richard Jones, Head of the National Cyber Crime Unit’s Prevent team. ‘We know that simply criminalising young people cannot be the solution to this and so the campaign seeks to help motivate children to use their skills more positively.’

The #CyberChoices campaign aims to reach parents of 12-15 year olds who may be involved in hacking or other kinds of online crime without their parent’ knowledge.

The campaign, also aimed at professionals who work with children and young people, highlights the range of criminal activities that children may be involved in, how to spot signs of potential problems, what the consequences could be and signposts better ways for young people to use their technical skills.

Getting parents involved

Research commissioned by the NCA indicates that the majority of young people and their parents aren't aware of what constitutes a cybercrime - or the consequences of engaging in it.

Types of cybercrime include:

  • Hacking – gaining access into someone’s computer network without their permission and taking control and/or taking information. Examples may include accessing the secure area on the school’s computer network and looking for test paper answers.
  • Making, supplying or obtaining malware (malicious software), viruses, spyware etc. that allow criminals to get into other people’s computers to carry out illegal activities. ‘Pranking’, by remotely accessing a friend’s computer without their knowledge and messing around is still illegal.
  • Carrying out a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack or 'booting'. A DDoS is when a website is attacked by sending it lots of internet traffic. This means anyone who wants to visit that site won’t be able to access it. Booting someone offline while playing online games may seem like a harmless joke, but is still illegal.

Encouraging positive cyber skills

Parents play a key role in helping their children make the right choices when it comes to utilising their digital skills. Skills in coding, gaming, computer programming, cyber security or anything IT-related are in high demand and there are many careers and opportunities available to anyone with an interest in these areas. Parents should emphasise this to their children, which will help steer them in the right direction.

There are several resources that parents can show to their children that offer them positive ways to build on, and make use of their talents:

  • Cyber Security Challenge - a series of national competitions, learning programmes and networking in coding and programming.
  • Inspired Careers - a virtual hub providing information on career paths in cyber security.
  • The Tech Partnership have links on tech apprenticeships.
  • Tech Future Girls - aimed at 10 to 14-year-olds; teaches girls skills ranging from coding to cyber security and video editing.
  • You can also look for national and local code academies and clubs within your area.


Could my child be a cybercriminal?

The following are possible indicators that a young person may be getting involved in illegal online activity.

Many of them are just normal teenage behaviours and taken in isolation they won't necessarily suggest a young person is at risk of getting involved in cybercrime.

If, however, a young person is showing several of these signs, talk to them about their online activities and explain the consequences of cybercrime to help them make the right choices.

  • Are they resistant when asked what they do online?
  • Do they get an income from their online activities, do you know why and how?
  • Is your child spending all of their time online?
  • Do they have irregular sleeping patterns?
  • Have they become more socially isolated?


For advice from the NCA on how to help young people avoid the risks of getting involved in cybercrime, and how to work with parents and carers on this issue visit:

To watch the short film produced for the #CyberChoices campaign, go to:  



Creative Commons license: 
Creative Commons Licence