Online Ties Taking Over? (OTTO) – A longitudinal study into actual vs perceived cybercriminal behaviour of offline vs online social ties among youth

Principal Investigator: Dr Marleen Weulen Kranenbarg, Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam

This longitudinal project aims to address the research question ‘To what extent is there a causal relationship between individuals’ social ties and their cybercriminal behavior?’. The project also investigates whether peer effects differ for cyber delinquent and traditional delinquent behavior. Research from traditional crime areas suggests there is a strong relationship between an individual’s criminal behavior and the criminal behavior of their social ties. This project aims to explore whether this is true also of cyber offenders, building on initial evidence suggesting that cyber criminals tend to have more cyber criminal social ties than non-offenders. However, this project aims to address some methodological issues with previous research by employing more reliable longitudinal methodologies and obtaining direct measures of peer offending behaviours (for peers at school), rather than just measuring perceptions.

The research includes young people in the Netherlands, with survey data to be collected in 3 waves. Surveys at IT-schools examine self-reported cyber criminal behaviour of a high-risk sample of juveniles and young adults (aged 12-23) together with those of respondents’ social peers. It will distinguish between online and offline social peers. As a result, it will explore the extent of any causal relationship between social ties (either traditional or online) and cyber criminal behaviour. The longitudinal aspect will help to distinguish between peer influence and peer selection as shifting social relationships (and changes in self-reported behaviour) are explored over time.

The findings from this research will help to build the evidence base regarding our understanding of cyber offenders and the factors that influence cyber offending behaviour. This in turn will help to inform policymakers, schools, and law enforcement regarding how interventions could be designed to target these factors and prevent young people from becoming involved in cyber crime.


Posted on

August 10, 2020