Contributor

This article was contributed by NCA-CEOP

NCA-CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency. As well as being a reporting mechanism, NCA-CEOP works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children, and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account.

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Help your child make positive Cyber Choices

Man on computer coding

Image: Gorodenkoff/stock.adobe.com

Cyber Choices is co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and delivered by regional/local police teams. The aim is to explain the difference between legal and illegal cyber activity, encourage individuals to make informed choices about their use of technology, divert them away from cyber-crime and promote legal tech opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more people working from home, school closures and greater use of technology to stay in touch with friends, family and workmates.

Children may also be spending more time online, and in many ways this is a good thing.

Many young people are curious and want to explore how technology works, how it interacts with other technology and what vulnerabilities it may have. This can include learning to code and experimenting with tools and techniques discovered online, on video streaming websites or discussed in forums.

These are great skills to have and the cyber security industry is short of people with them, so salaries and prospects in the technology sector are attractive.

Unfortunately, these skills can sometimes be used illegally, often because of a lack of knowledge of the law. This makes young people vulnerable to becoming involved in cyber crime and Cyber Choices are here to help prevent that.

Cyber criminals tend to be a little different to those involved in traditional crimes. Surprisingly, the average age of entry to low-level cyber crime engagement is around 17 years old (statistic based on analysis of recent National Crime Agency Operations). It has been found that cyber criminals are often male (but not always), sometimes interested in video games, intelligent and skilled with technology.

This type of criminal doesn’t always have an interest in financial gain, but thrives on the challenge and recognition from peers. They often believe that cyber crime is victimless – which it is certainly not.

How can Cyber Choices help?

The Cyber Choices Network specifically deals with cyber-dependent crime, where technology is required to commit the crime. An example of this is hacking into a computer system or network without permission.

Cyber Choices are here to assist parents, guardians, carers and teachers who would like to support young people in learning and developing cyber skills. With the right knowledge, you can easily provide a child with an understanding of the law in relation to computing in the same way you do when it comes to stealing or criminal damage. The legislation concerning cyber crime is the Computer Misuse Act (CMA), 1990. You can learn more about this in our CMA leaflet here.

To achieve our aims, the Cyber Choices team engages with both young people and parents/guardians/carers/teachers in a variety of ways. This includes giving presentations at school assemblies and conferences, attending events, such as gaming and computer exhibitions, and promoting interesting and legal ways to use and develop cyber skills. The latter is done using resources, Personal, Social and Economic Education (PSHE) lessons and online competitions.

Please contact us via the details below if you would like more information on this.

How can parents help?

Coding and programming are extremely valuable skills to have, but it’s important that young people use these skills in the right way.

Talk to them about their interest in technology. Engaging with them is key to ensuring that they follow a positive pathway and Cyber Choices are here to support you with this.

Here are a few tips you could consider for your first approach:

  • Explain the importance of honesty and legality, as well as the consequences of getting involved in cyber crime.
  • Make use of the learning, development and informational resources below.
  • Search for computing and coding clubs in your area and encourage your child to join the appropriate one for their age group and ability post-lockdown. Alternatively, you could look at some of the online options.
  • Explain and explore the legal employment options available to them. These include coding, engineering, web development, penetration testing, security operations, law enforcement, ethical hacking and many more roles in both the public and private sectors.

Resources during COVID-19 and beyond

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cyber Choices has collaborated with Cyber Security Challenge UK (CSC) to provide educational and interactive resources for young people faced with more free time at home.

Young people aged 12-18 can now get involved in protecting the virtual city ‘Cyberland’ from a cyber-attack. There are 16 interactive exercises which include the fundamentals of cyber security such as firewall configuration and a module on the Computer Misuse Act (1990). Individuals can also explore career opportunities linked to their digital skills. You can find them here: https://cybergamesuk.com/

Access is free until September 2020 to help mitigate the potential increased risks of young people becoming involved in cyber crime over the summer, either knowingly or by mistake.

A range of Cyber Choices information packs are also available, offering information for various age groups, as well as a leaflet that explains the Computer Misuse Act. Our resources pack lists some of the existing and stimulating online activities available to test, challenge and develop cyber skills, whether or not your child is considering a career in the tech sector.

Please contact Cyber Choices for further information.

If you’re concerned or you would just like some advice or support on any of the above, please take a look at: www.cyberchoices.uk or you can email: cyberchoices@nca.gov.uk

Click here to read this article in Welsh

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