A startling new survey has found that 20% of children aged 10-16 in the UK are engaging in cyber activities that violate the Computer Misuse Act. For children who regularly play online games, that figure jumps to 25%.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is sounding the alarm and calling on parents and teachers to educate young people on the serious legal consequences of unauthorized computer hacking and access. Even seemingly minor offenses like using someone else’s gaming account without permission or attempting to access protected servers can lead to arrests, criminal records, device confiscation, school expulsion, and lasting impacts on future careers and travel.

“Many young people are getting involved in cyber crime without realising they are breaking the law,” said Paul Foster, NCA Deputy Director and Head of the National Cyber Crime Unit. “Our message is simple – don’t play games with your future.”

Examples of low-level offenses include downloading hacking software, making purchases with someone else’s saved payment details, and participating in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks while gaming online. While often unintentional, these actions violate the Computer Misuse Act and can quickly escalate into more sophisticated cyber crimes.

The NCA’s cyber education initiative, Cyber Choices, provides resources to help steer youth away from a path of cyber crime and toward ethical computing skills that are highly in demand across many lucrative career fields in the UK and globally.

The agency has launched a 3-week campaign featuring videos to raise awareness. By intervening early, they hope to prevent a new generation from jeopardising their futures through cybercrime. For more information and access to the videos click this link or visit the NCA website.