Digital displacement of youth offending: addressing the issue

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Forensic Practice, 2022, 24, (3), pp. 298-311
Issue Date:
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Purpose: Global evidence suggests a potential displacement of youth offending from the physical to the digital landscape, requiring revision of existing detection and intervention methods. This study aims to explore pathways from harmful to illegal online activity perpetrated by young people, legislation and police perspectives, current detection methods and interventions. Design/methodology/approach: This perspective paper examines issues observed within a larger systematic literature review on digital youth offending. Findings: A trajectory from acceptable to harmful and subsequently illegal behaviour was identified, with a particular pathway from unethical video game activity to digitally dependent offending. Legislation and police perspectives vary by jurisdiction, with a common theme that increased officer education is key to the level of preparedness to investigate cases. Machine learning and automatic prevention show promise as detection and disruption processes, with education recommended for young people as a deterrent and redirection of skills to positive outcomes. Research limitations/implications: Recommendations for further research include a broad survey of school students to include all identified areas of digital offending, which could drive the development of targeted education by law enforcement and partner agencies for young people. Practical implications: The shift in youth offending requires the justice and educational systems to adjust how they respond to youth crime. Policy and practise shifts can include further exploration of investigative hacking, education for law enforcement and educational prevention and redirection programmes aimed at youth. Originality/value: The digital displacement of youth offending is a progressively emerging concept. This paper examines the current state of response from educational and law enforcement agencies and discusses the next steps based on what is currently known.
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