Nearly 2,000 children, some as young as nine years old, have been investigated by police in the U.K. over the last three years for potentially criminal activity on social media, including abuse, threatening messages, and online bullying, according to a report from Sky News. Furthermore out of the 1,932 children investigated, 1,203 of these -- again, including children as young as nine -- have either been charged with a criminal offense or given a warning or fine.
Meanwhile the same report, based on Freedom of Information request to the British government, found that 19,279 British adults have been investigated by the police for the same kind of offenses, which were classified as potentially criminal acts under the U.K.’s 2003 Communications Act, and 11,929 were charged, received a warning, or given a fine.
Unsurprisingly the trend is on the increase, with the total number of cases investigated per year increasing 5% from 2011-2014; the first nine months of the 2013-2014 reporting period is already setting a record with a total of 7,318 adults and 610 individuals under age 18 investigated.
Previously a separate survey of British teens found that 21% had posted negative comments, while 26% said they had hijacked someone else’s account to post damaging content, and 43% said they had exchanged messages with strangers.
On this side of the pond, earlier this year a survey by Cox Communications and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children found that 31% of teens reported being the victim of online bullying, but only 41% of these had told an adult. Meanwhile one in 10 reported having bullied someone online.
On the positive side, researchers with MIT Media Lab’s Software Agents Group claim to have developed an algorithm that can detect bullying, based on linguistic patterns. The program is designed to work in conjunction with social-media sites, as a kind of preventive measure. It scans the text of posts and when it detects language that may indicate bullying, it asks the user: “Do you really want to say this?”