Accounting for adolescent pathways into cyber-delinquency: results from the South Australian Digital Youth Research Project

Image: Internet by Geralt (Pixabay)

This seminar was recorded on Tuesday 29 October at the Australian National University. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Digital technologies, particularly the Internet, play a significant and increasingly central part in adolescent life. To date, however, little research has explored the relationship between a young person’s digital engagements and pathways into crime (particularly cybercrime).

This empirical study addresses this gap, by exploring the significance of an adolescent’s digital engagements (alongside other developmental considerations) in predicting cyber-delinquency. Drawing on cross-sectional data collected from a cohort of Year 8 students (n=1892) enrolled in South Australian secondary schools, this study demonstrates the degree to which an adolescent’s relative access to technologies, digital literacy, exposure to the internet and interactional opportunities drive various forms of cyber-delinquency (e.g. hacking, piracy, cyber-bullying, cyber-violence, image-based abuse, amongst others). The results also show that whilst cyber-delinquency is pervasive across this cohort, such behaviours are, at this point, best characterised as episodic and for the most part trifling.

This research thus provides critical insights into the early onset of cyber-delinquency amongst Australian adolescents, and underscores the need for deeper and longer-term understanding of the significance of digital technologies when accounting for youth pathways into crime.

About the speaker

Russell Brewer is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Adelaide. He has a PhD from the Australian National University. His research interests include cybercrime, youth delinquency, crime prevention and policing. He has published his research findings through several leading publication outlets, holds multiple nationally competitive grants, and has been called upon by Government Agencies both domestically and abroad to advise on policy. Russell is an Investigator on several current research projects, including the 5-year Australian Research Council funded Digital Youth Research Project (, as well as the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Sciences Council funded project entitled EconoMical, PsycHologicAl and Societal Impact of RanSomware (

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