EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
In the second part of our discussion where we decode the various aspects that influence an individual’s path towards becoming a cybercriminal, external environmental factors as they pertain to the family and social institutions are analyzed. As we have come into the digital age, not much research has been done specifically on the psychology aspects of cybercriminals, so I have taken research into the social influences involved in general criminology and tie it in with a cybersecurity context so we can better understand what predispositions to flag for.
Relationship in an Upbringing Family
As in all life contexts, the parental influence on a child’s disposition is profound. A child’s moral compass is instilled in them at an early age through the process of positive and negative reinforcements. An example of this being stealing. Children are not born with the knowledge that stealing is bad or wrong, but learn it because of negative reactions and behaviors of their parental system. Children who are not given clear, consistent reinforcements of how to properly act will be more likely to have underdeveloped moral obligations, leading them to poor social judgements and a disposition towards criminal behavior.
A similar important trait learned from the parental system is communication skills. These communication skills facilitate a child’s ability to positively interact with the world at large and provides a baseline for the remainder of the relationships in his or her life. Studies have shown that families with poor communication skills have a correlation with a child’s development of aggressive and criminal behavior, as the lack of communication can cause a child to be defensive, reject their responsibilities, and increase their anger. In a healthy parental support system, the child is communicated that he or she is valued and loved through such things as praise, encouragement, and affection.
Relationship with Peers
Peer groups have a profound effect on our personality development and feelings of acceptance with the world. The ways in which we communicate and interact with our peer groups stems from the parental system, as mentioned above, through the social aspects of friends and school, through which a child’s sense of self is reinforced.
Children who exhibit aggressive behavior at an early age tend to be deemed as outcasts by their peers. They are looked down upon and not socially accepted, creating poor peer relationships and regulating those children to group together with others who exhibit similar aggressive behaviors.
The age at which an individual begins to associate with deviant peers has influence over the level of delinquency and criminality that the individual will participate in in the future. Studies have shown that the younger children are when they first exhibit these aggressive behaviors and begin to affiliate with delinquent friends, the longer and more profound these behaviors will be in the future.
The school environment has profound effect on a child’s psychology and adaptation to the world around them. As most children are required to attend school 5 days a week, 180 days a year, it is a prolific time for a child’s development. Stemming from the parental system, children learn the norms around school attendance and socialization. Parents who teach their children to be polite, helpful, caring, and cooperative generally lead them to more adaptive and acceptable bonds with their school. However, if the parental system is lacking, they will not learn these characteristics and will experience difficulties in school through the rejection at both the peer and teacher levels.
Children who do well in school are shown to have more pro-social behaviors and behaviors that are inline with societies moral compass. This is due to the high self-esteem and internal locus of control that arises out of academic achievement. Children who do not do well in school strive to boost their self-esteem by disregarding society’s norms and participating in deviant behaviors. This then leads to a negative labeling in both peer groups and teachers group, which then causes the individual to band together with like-minded, deviant individuals. They are then encouraged and reinforced to participate in these behaviors, propelling the cycle.
Substantial research shows that employment is critically important in addressing crime. Several theories argue that crime becomes the most attractive option when legitimate pathways to economic and social advancement are blocked. When income is accounted for and shows effective job functioning, the incentive to commit economic crime in reduced.
Another aspect of professional work that inhibits criminal activity is an individual’s “stake in conformity” that non-workers do not face. Working increases society’s informal social controls on the individuals, wherein it becomes an investment risk for them to step out of the bounds of acceptable behavior. This keeps workers on a steady, conforming path towards societies ideals and lessens the opportunities for them to be dismissed by society.
In a Cybersecurity Context
In our ever growing digitally focused world, children and parents are becoming more reliant on digital channels for communication. Through mobile and social media, our communication mechanisms are going through a rapid evolution wherein we connect with one another less in-person and through such independent lenses that social media communication constructs, do not experience social aspects of positive and negative reinforcements to guide our social compass.
Taken in a cybersecurity context, we can see that those who lack a social moral compass to govern what is right and what is not right when it comes to the stealing of information for monetary profit can easily turn to cybercriminality given the lack of a communication structure where one learns society’s expectations through positive and negative reinforcements. Our peer groups help to reinforce our pattern behaviors in either a positive or negative context, and depending on the initial age of displaying aggressive behaviors, these patterns can lead an individual to a deviant or criminal lifestyle.
As we progress deeper into our technology focused world, give our children phones at a younger age, and choose ourselves as adults to rely on digital forms of communication for ease of use, it leaves a question of how the future will look.
Will digital reinforcements replace social? As we have watched society transform, from one where taking a selfie in a public area was once looked upon as an aspect of vanity, to now being a normal and socially accepted, even celebrated, aspect of life, it is healthy to ponder what will be our guiding moral compass in the future.