How has Increased Life Expectancy Affected the Experience of Childhood…?

Life expectancy in England and Wales has risen dramatically over the last 100 years, increasing from around 55 in 1920 to 80 today for men and from 60 to 83 today for women. …

This means that children who grew up in the 1920s and 1930s would, on average, not have had the experience of being around many people over the age 60, whereas today, on average, children will experience the company of people aged 60-85 as ‘the norm’.

I am talking here of course just about ‘averages’ – experiences will vary from family to family.

For those parents who have children at a younger age, say in their 20s, their children stand much more chance of experiencing a four generation family, something which would have been almost unheard of in the 1920s.

However, three generation families would still have been common 100 years ago because people typically had babies much earlier, meaning children would still have experienced grandparents, but those grandparents would have been younger, in their 50s rather than in their 70s which would be the case in the typical three generation family today.

I think with the increase in family diversity, the increase in life expectancy would mean different experiences with grandparents for children depending on the type of family… for those parents who have children young then children are far more likely to experience grandparents in good health for their entire childhood and maybe only have to deal with their death as older teenagers, whereas experiencing the death of a grandparent during childhood would have been much more common 100 years ago.

HOWEVER, for those parents who have children later, in their 40s, probably dealing with the death of a grandparent would be more likely.

A possible negative affect of the ageing population on the experience of childhood is that parents who have to care for their ageing parents may not have as much time for their children, especially if end of life care is dragged out for several months or years as can be the case with degenerative diseases which are more common in old age.

The experience of childhood may also have been indirectly affected by wider social changes brought about by the ageing population – as society has refocussed its resources towards caring for the old (some might even say pandering to the old) there are relatively fewer resources left for children, so funding in education suffers as does Higher Education with students now having to pay for it themselves.

So as children get older they may start to feel like society is set up for the old and they get very little back in return – other than facing a life of working for 50 years as young adults in order to pay for the ever increasing ratio of old to young (the ‘dependency ratio’).

We kind of saw this with the Covid-19 pandemic – society was focused on protecting the very old while schools just closed – the children suffered for the sake of the old – the experience of childhood here was one of blocked opportunities and increased fear and uncertainty caused, effectively by the government’s choice to put the over 70s first – had the Pandemic happened in the 1920s when there were hardly any over 60s alive anyway society wouldn’t have had to shut down to protect them, because the risk of dying from covid for the under 60s was significantly lower.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This question cam up in the June 2022 families and households paper two exam.

This is a response I free wrote in around 15 minutes to give students some ideas about how they might have answered it. NB it’s not formatted like an answer to a 10 mark question should be, but there is enough information in here to top band I would have thought – there are certainly TWO ways fleshed out!

Marxism Applied to Topics in A-level Sociology

The easiest way for students to prepare for the Theory and Methods parts of the A-Level Sociology Paper 1 and Paper 3 exams is to revise how Marxism applies to the different topic areas usually taught as part of the specification – typically the Family, Education, Religion and Crime and Deviance.

For an overview of these two papers please see my ‘exams advice page’.

This post is a summary of how Marxism applies to these topic areas.

Research Methods Implications

  • Scientific Marxism – The purpose of research is to find out more about the laws of Capitalism to see when revolution is ripe
  • Requires a Cross National Macro-Approach to social research focusing on economics and how the economy affects society
  • Humanistic Marxism – Research can be more varied, focusing on highlighting social injustices in order to make people more critical of Capitalism (Not value free!)

Marxism applied to the family

  • Capitalism, Private Property and The Family
  • The family as a safe haven

More at the Marxist Perspective on the Family.

Marxism and Education

  • The ideological state apparatus
  • Reproduction/ Legitimation of class inequality
  • Correspondence Principle
  • Cultural Capital

More at the Marxist Perspective on Education.

Dependency Theory

  • Colonialism and Slavery
  • The Modern World System
  • Unfair trade rules
  • TNC exploitation

More at Dependency Theory .

Marxism applied to Crime and Deviance

  • Private Property and Crime
  • The costs of Corporate Crime
  • Selective Law Enforcement
  • Criminogenic Capitalism (‘Dog Eat Dog“ Society)

For more see The Marxist Perspective on Crime and Deviance.

Marxism – more advanced theory

Using what Marxists say about the above topic areas is just one way to approach a theory question on Marxism, another way is to use the work of specific Marxists such as Althusser and Gramsci, and of course Marx himself. These ideas are outlined in this revision post: Marxism A-level Sociology Revision Notes.

For more links to Marxist theory please see my Theory and Methods page for A2 Sociology.

Social Action Theory: Revision Notes for A-Level Sociology

The Advance Information for the 2022 Sociology A-levels specifies that students WILL be assessed on the area of consensus, conflict, structural and/ or action theories.

The easiest way to revise these topics at A2 level is to briefly cover the key ideas of each theory AND ALSO revise how each of these theories applies to the topic areas you have studied – usually families, education, crime and deviance and research methods, and then to evaluate.

This post is a summary revision post of the key ideas of social action theory. Before reviewing it you might like to look at these posts:

Social Action Theory Main Ideas

  • We need Verstehen to understand human action, because the same actions can mean different things to different people. Statistical methods and observation alone are not enough to understand human action (Weber)
  • We need to understand action in terms of shared meanings within a group (Mead) and how the members of that group see themselves (their identity) and how the individuals and the group understand society.
  • We need to understand whether an individual is just putting on an act (manipulating props and just managing an impression)
  • We need to understand whether a person has been labelled by agents of social control, whether they have been stigmatised by society.

Research Methods Implications

  • Getting to people’s own motives for action requires in-depth qualitative methods
  • In order to understand shared meanings we need at the very least to use unstructured interviews.
  • In order to assess whether the extent to which people are ‘acting out’ identities we need to use Participant Observation, which in many cases will not be possible.

How Social Action Theorists understand family life

The Personal Life Perspective argues that we need to start by abandoning standard definitions of the family and focus instead on what ‘family’ means to them – when we do this, we find that many people see a whole load of unusual relationships as being more significant to their intimate lives (pets and dead relatives for example) than their actual ‘family members’. This critics the Functionalist idea that families are necessary parts of society – families are much more fluid than ever before, and friends can perform many of the functions as formal family members.

How they understand achievement in education

  • (Following Mead) – In depth research of anti-school subcultures has revealed a wide variety of meanings and identities which different students bring to the school…which conflict with the school’s value system. For example, Paul Willis’ study found that the lads saw school work as irrelevant to their future lives, while Tony Sewel argues that being a ‘swot’ may compromise young black boys’ ideas about masculinity. We thus cannot truly understand underachievement without understanding these boys’ identities and why school doesn’t fit in with their identities.
  • Labelling theory however explains underachievement in terms of middle class white teachers labelling students not like them as problem students, which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Goffman’s dramaturgical theory is useful – ‘good’ students may just be better at putting on an act – better at ‘impression manageme

How Social Action Theorists understand Crime and Deviance

  • Following Mead – Research on gangs has shown that being in a gang doesn’t necessarily mean ‘being bad” – gang membership is typically casual and fluid, it does not mean that much at all to many members, and is about protection for many, rather than criminality. There are several different types of gang, several different meanings. This criticise structural subcultural theories of deviance.
  • Following Becker’s labelling theory – The Police act in terms of stereotypes when it comes to stop and search, as do the courts, this goes some way to explaining why there are more EM’s in jail.
  • Following Goffman’s dramaturgical theory – elites may be just as criminal as non-elites, they are just better at acting in ways which mean they avoid attention from the police.

Key Studies

  • The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
  • The ‘action’ bit of Paul Willis’ study of the lads.
  • John Heale’s One blood – gangs as self-defence, gangs as fluid;
  • Gok Wan – People dressing up
  • Facebook;
  • Howard Becker – The Ideal Pupil
  • RJ SFP
  • David Gilborn – Teachers labelling African Caribbean boys

Social Action Theory: Evaluations

  • It doesn’t pay sufficient attention to how social structures constrain action – for example, material deprivation can have a real, objective impact on your ability to well at school, thus failure is not just all about labelling.
  • It tends to ignore power-distribution in society – it can’t explain patterns in class, gender, ethnicity.
  • If people are so active, then why do so many people choose to be so normal?
  • Labelling theory can also be criticised for being deterministic
  • The small-scale methods associated with this theory can equally be criticised for lacking reliability and representativeness

Advanced Information for the AQA A-level Sociology exam 2022: Education Paper 1

The [pre-release information](https://filestore.aqa.org.uk/content/summer-2022/AQA-7192-AI-22.PDF) for Paper 1 has selected the broad topic of education policies as the one which students will DEFINITELY be tested on…

the significance of educational policies, including problems of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy’.

The problem is, this is very broad topic, probably best further broken down into a number of separate bullet points:

There are FOUR broad types of policy:

  • selection policies
  • marketisation policies
  • privatisation policies
  • policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome,

You need to be able to consider all of the above policies have affected the social structure and other institutions, the way in which (different types of) student experience school, and how they have affected equality of access to education, and educational outcomes (who gets what results.

In addition to all of the above you also need to be able to discuss and evaluate the impact of globalisation on educational policy!

Phew!

NB I don’t think there are any quick fixes with this topic area, it’s just going to be a hard grind of revision trying to cover all the material!

Where I covered these topics on ReviseSociology.com

NB the exam board has been asking students to focus on policies ‘since 1988 for several years’ so I think it’s reasonable to expect the same

  • Every student should know in depth the 1988 Education Reform Act – which introduced Marketisation.
  • New Labour’s policies carried on with Marketisation (choice) and introduced more policies to do with equality of opportunity
  • The Coalition’s Policies included Free Schools (more choice) and the Pupil Premium – the later an attempt at
  • Selection Policies include the tripartite system from the 1940s, but the linked post in this bullet point covers more recent selection policies and concepts such as ‘selection by mortgage’
  • Privatisation polices come in two ‘broad types’ – endogenous and exogenous, covered in this linked post.
  • Globalisation and Education is covered here

You will find more links to posts on education policies on my sociology of education page.

Good luck with the 2022 exams and happy revising!

The relationship of the family to the social structure and social change

The pre-release information for the 2022 A-level sociology exam from the AQA selected the relationship of the family to the social structure and social change as the topic area that WILL come up for the 20 mark essay.

NB we are talking here about the Paper 2 exam: topics in sociology the families and households option, and this post is just a reminder of the core content that comes within this sub-topic!

What is the social structure?

The idea of a social structure is most commonly associated with the two classic sociological perspectives Funtionalism and Marxism:

  • Functionalists argue that society is structured through institutions which all perform specific functions, all working together to maintain the whole system of society – like organs in a body (the ‘organic analogy’) – the family is seen as playing a crucial role in (obviously?) the reproduction of the next generation.
  • Marxists see the social structure as being organised along social class lines – with the bourgeoisie exercising control over the major institutions of society
  • Feminism has a more complex view of the social structure whether you’re talking about Liberal, Marxist or Radical.
  • Postmodernists and Late Modernists suggest the social structure which Marxists and Functionalists refer too is much more fluid than it used to be and that it constrains the individual much less today than in the late 19th and mid 20th centuries when Marxists and Functionalists did most of their writing.

Recent social changes you might consider….

The social changes associated with the shift from modernity to postmodernity are what you could address, such as:

  • Globalisation
  • The breakdown/ increasing fluidity of social structure
  • More individual freedom and choice

The relationship of the family to the social structure

The ‘classic’ approach to this topic is to address it through the main sociological perspectives, and if you know what the different perspectives think about the family and social structure, you SHOULD automatically be addressing social change at the same time, as the two are fundamentally related.

The rest of this post offers a brief summary of what the main sociological perspectives have to say on this topic.

for further details and especially evaluations be sure to check out the linked posts below!

The Functionalist view on the family and social structure

Talcot Parsons developed the Functional Fit Theory to explain how the main type of family changed from the extended family to the nuclear family with the shift from pre-industrial to industrial society.

He argued that the nuclear family better fitted the needs of an industrial society because it was smaller and more mobile, and the changes with industrialisation meant that families needed to be able to move around more easily.

He also argued that the family in industrial society had to perform fewer functions than in industrial society because other institutions developed to perform functions more efficiently than the old extended family could – schools for education, for example.

The family in industrial society performs only two functions – the stabilisation of adult personalties (emotional security) and reproduction.

Find out more here: The Functionalist view of the family.

The Marxist view of the family and social structure

This stands in direct contrast to the Functionalist view – the nuclear family emerges with industrialisation, according to Engles, but only to legitimise the passing on of property down to the next generation – with Capitalism, there are now wealthy people and the family unit makes sure their new wealth stays in the family.

Before Capitalism Engles argued that families were a kind of ‘promiscuous hoard’ – when there was no property people cared for children collectively – it’s only when SOME families have property under capitalism that the nuclear family emerges.

Later Marxists suggest the nuclear family continues to perform functions for Capitalism by becoming a unit of consumption, for example.

Find out more: The Marxist Perspective on the Family.

The Radical Feminist view on the Nuclear Family

Radical Feminists see the nuclear family as the main institution which keeps Patriarchy going.

The traditional nuclear family and the ideology of the housewife role for women keeps women in the domestic sphere and out of the work place, preventing them from developing financial independence and limiting them to a caring role and a life of dull-drudgery.

Moreover, women are effectively exploited with the nuclear family, and far from the family being a safe haven, domestic abuse within family life is a common, yet hidden feature of many relationships.

A core belief of radical feminism is that the nuclear family needs to be broken down and women are better off seeking alternative relationships.

Find out more: The Radical Feminist View of the Family.

Post and Late Modernism

Writing since the 1980s, Postmodernists argue that there is no such thing as a normal family anymore – rather, family diversity is now the norm – with there being more variety of families than ever before – as shown by the increase in single person households and single parent households for example.

For postmodernists, every aspect of family life is a choice – and hence we see people getting married and starting families later and divorce rates persistently high.

Late Modernists suggest it is not as simple as family life being all about choice – rather social life today makes holding down a relationship and having a stable family life more difficult – people still want these things, but busy working lives and constant distractions make family life much more difficult.

Find out More

This has been just a quick reminder post, be sure to check out the linked blog posts for further details.

Be sure to check out the New Right and Personal Life Perspective too!

Also, remember that the specific question you get asked could be either broad or very narrow, AND the 10 mark questions will probably be from other areas of the module!

Advanced Information for the June 2022 A-Level Sociology Exams – what should you focus on…?

The AQA recently released its advanced information for the June 2022 A-level Exams, and for A-level Sociology this means telling students what the big essay questions are going to be on in each of the three main papers

  • (Paper 1 Education, 30 mark essay): Education policies – including policies of selection, privatisation, marketisation, improvement of outcome or equality of opportunity AND globalisation (few!)
  • (Paper 2 Families Topics, 20 mark essay): The family and social change, in relation to the economy and state policies
  • (Paper 2: Beliefs in Society, 20 mark essay): Ideology, science and religion
  • (Paper 3): Crime with Theory and Methods. 30 mark crime essay): Crime, deviance, social order and social control
  • (Paper 3, 20 mark theory or methods essay): Consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories.

NB These are ONLY the essays, the shorter (4/6/10 mark) questions can be on anything, and there is NO advance guidance on Methods in Context.

In short, the AQA are telling you content for about HALF of exams over all, so by all means spend a bit more time revising the above topics but you still need to revise EVERYTHING!

What should your revision strategy be given this advanced information?

This isn’t a typical year, now that you’ve been gifted the topics for the questions in advance, as this means many students will change their revision practices to focus on these ‘five known topics’.

This means that it’s advisable to spend proportionately more time on these topics to make sure you’re at the same level.

HOWEVER, I would personally (and humbly) suggest that you should also be practicing essay technique – focussing on how to USE the knowledge in these chosen sub-topics to answer specific questions precisely – this is what’s going to give you the edge.

Think about it – EVERYONE is going to know these topics better than in the typical year, so the standard student will be going into the exam ready to splurge all that knowledge down on paper – but if that’s all they do, they’ll get no more than a C grade (even though they’ll walk out thinking they’ve earned an ‘A’.

The mark schemes only give around half the marks in those essays for knowledge, the rest of the marks are for analysis and evaluation, actually using that knowledge to answer the question.

So make sure to practice those higher order skills too.

ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT POINT….

When I say spend more time revising the topics above, I mean like spend about another 5-10% of the time on them – DO NOT sacrifice revising the other topics – collectively everything else is still worth half the marks, you simply have to devote almost as much time to these as well, because it’s still the case that anything else can come up in those shorter questions.

So personally I’d spend a fraction more time revising the above topics, but don’t shift ore than 10% away from all the other topics, and focus a lot on exam technique.

In short, don’t change much and do mostly what you’d usually do anyway!

Sources

Advanced information for the June 2022 A-level from the AQA.

Sociological Perspectives on the 2020 Downing Street Christmas Party

There seems to be increasing evidence that around three dozen people attended a party at Downing Street in December 2020, shortly after tier three lockdown restrictions were introduced.

These lockdown rules explicitly prohibited people from having social gatherings (like Christmas Parties) and even prevented people from visiting their relatives who were in care homes or hospitals, meaning, quite literally, that in some cases the government lockdown rules meant some people never saw their close family members again.

And during that time a few ministers and downing street officials were breaking these rules, partying, and laughing about it, as well as now denying it ever happened, despite mounting evidence that this incredible double standard took place.

This Sky News Report below offers a useful summary of the issue and is also particularly damning of those involved, it’s kind of hard not to be!

Clearly this is a deviant act on the part of a small minority of powerful people within government, but how can we apply sociological perspectives to this event?

Functionalism

Errrrr…. I’m struggling with this one.

According to Functionalists, crime is supposed to promote positive functions by increasing social integration and regulation, but that simply isn’t the case here – this just turns people against the supposed leaders of our country, creating a sense of division not only between the public and themselves, but also within the Conservative Party.

This event seems to challenge the relevance of Functionalism – it seems to suggest that for Downing Street there is one rule for the plebs and another for themselves, which isn’t anything to do with integration, won’t help with maintaining social order and just doesn’t sit well at all with the whole Functionalist framework.

Marxism

A key Marxist idea is that we have selective law enforcement. This is certainly the case here.

Some people were prosecuted for holding parties during lockdown 2020, the same time as this Downing Street Party took place, presumably the Home Secretary himself knew this was taking place and yet no one was prosecuted here.

Although now this is out in the open, where the Media are concerned, they are very damning of Downing Street, so there isn’t any Agenda Setting going on atm!

Postmodernism

There is something a bit surreal about this event – it’s taking place largely in the media – how else could it be?

There is also a level of uncertainty about who attended the party, and the government is being very evasive, but maybe that’s not so much postmodern it’s just the government lying like it does so much of the time.

This is also a great example of traditional power structures being challenged by the media.

Having said this one thing that isn’t postmodern is the public reaction – surely no one can support this, people being united against the government’s own deviance. (But this ISN’T support for Functionalism it’s very different to what they envisaged.)

And this also says to people ‘stuff the rules, just do what you want, we did!’

The party at number 10 – final thoughts

This really is just tragic. One rule for them, another for us plebs.

Sociology aside, how can anyone feel anything but repulsion over these double standards?

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

How the Media Simplifies Crime

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

This 2019 blog post from the John Howard Society of Canada is useful here:

The media simplify the coverage of crime in the following ways:

  • Media coverage tends to focus on the individual criminals, and their psychological state, with very little focus on the social context which led to a crime being committed (so very little sociological analysis in the mainstream media!)
  • Crime stories quote the police and victims and their families, but rarely experts in the field – nice link to the news value of ‘personalisation’ here.
  • Coverage is usually ‘emotional’ and often ‘angry’ with little objective analysis of the actual risk of the wider public also falling a victim of the crime featured. As a result, the media spreads an unrealistic fear of crime.
  • Coverage of crime is often associated with only one policy option – harsher punishments for offenders – there is very little discussion of alternatives to punishment, despite the fact that a lot of evidence points to the fact that harsher punishments are not the most effective means of controlling crime.

You can find several examples of this simplification of the crime narrative in the BBC News and crime-focussed documentaries (even though the later are supposed to have more depth and breadth)

  • Documentaries typically take the side of the police – following them around, or having them in as experts in the studio – Crimewatch even encourages the public to phone in and help the police
  • The underlying causes of crime are rarely looked at in the news or crime documentaries – as we will see next term factors such as family breakdown, poverty, child abuse mean that many criminals are themselves victims of an unequal society and a harsh upbringing, but this is rarely considered.
  • You rarely hear from the criminals – they tend to be talked about by experts. One obvious example of this is the issue surrounding the war on terror – have you ever heard the Islamists point of view in the mainstream media? The west has been engaged in a ‘war against Al Queda’ for a decade now – wouldn’t it maybe help our understanding of this war if the BBC had made some attempt to let a radical Islamist at least explain why they think terrorism is legitimate? Maybe just once in the last decade?
  • Where political protest happens, the media tend to focus on the violence done by a fringe minority rather than the issues that are being protested about – focussing on violent clashes between police and demonstrators (if there are any) rather than on the issues and speeches that went on during those demonstrations.

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime refers to illegal activities carried out with a computer over a network such as the internet.

Some of the most common types of cybercrime include:

  • Identity and data theft
  • internet fraud (online scams)
  • hacking (unauthorised access to networks)
  • Infecting devices with viruses
  • Denial of Service attacks (DOS attacks)
  • file sharing in breach of copyright
  • 3D Printing of illegal products
  • Cyberwarfare
  • child pornography

The key characteristics of cybercrime include:

  • The use of digital technologies – either a desktop or laptop computer, but also mobile phones and games consoles.
  • Cyber crime takes place over networked devices. (NB this means one of the main strategies for protecting yourself is to DISCONNECT OR SWITCH OFF your devices whenever you can!)
  • Most cyber crime is informational – it involves an attempt to access and steal personal or corporate/ government information or an attack on online identities.Cyber crime is non-local in nature – it takes place in ‘cyberspace’, not in a real physical location.
  • Having said that, there are physical locations where ‘attacks’ originate from, and these are often in different countries to the victims, making cyber crime very global in nature.
  • There is a considerable ‘data gap’ when it comes to what we know about cyber criminals – more than 80% of victims of online fraud can say NOTHING about the person that committed a crime against them for example.

Cyber dependent and cyber enabled crime

This is a common distinction in criminology (and a very useful analysis tool for A-level sociology students!).

Cyber-dependent crime refers to crimes which can only take place over computer networks – such as Hacking, virus and Denial of Service attacks. These are relatively new crimes, as they have only been possible since the emergence of the internent.

Cyber-enabled crime refers to pretty much ALL cyber crime and includes OLD types of crime that have been made easier with internet – this is MOST cyber-crime and includes identify theft, fraud, file sharing, counterfeiting and child pornography.

There maybe some types of Fraud which you think aren’t possible in the offline world, such as attempting to steal money from people through catfish type romance scams, but technically this would have been possible before the internet through newspaper dating ads and sending photos via letters, but as you can imagine, this would have been A LOT more difficult back in the day before the internet!

Contemporary Examples of Cybercrime

Below I provide some examples of famous historical cybercrimes and more recent cybercrimes to illustrate the nature and extent of some of the different types listed above.

(I’ve omitted the last type in the bullet point list, it’s a bit sensitive).

Identity and data theft

Only around 5% of the internet is visible (searchable by Google), 95% is the Deep Web (which includes the Dark Web) which is where people’s and corporations’ private data is stored, invisible to Google and encrypted, so that most people can’t gain access to it.

HOWEVER, data breaches are VERY common – where a company’s private records are either hacked or security weaknesses are exploited by other means.

This infographic shows you the extent of data breaches, and there are some BIG companies that have had been victims – Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Experian and many, many others.

Wikipedia shows you the same data in a list format , citing research estimating that the annual cost of data breaches to companies currently stands at over $2 trillion annually.

If people’s personal data is breached it can make its way onto the internet so other people can access it. Sometimes this data might be made available for free (just for lolz), other times it might be up for sale on the Dark Web – the later being more likely if the data has financial value, like people’s financial information.

Depending on the type of stolen data made available this can be used against people in the following ways:

  • email lists can be used in personalised phishing attempts (so if a criminal has a list of Barclay’s customers’ emails and other details, he can put together a more authentic looking Barclays phishing scam email).
  • Some personal data may be used to set up bank accounts and apply for credit cards which can then lead to financial crime being committed in other people’s names, this is essentially IDENTITY THEFT.
  • some data might be damaging to people’s reputations – like the Adult Friend Finder data breach – many people on that site were married.
  • If passwords are hacked they can be used to take over people’s social media and other accounts and then used against them – ever received an email from a friend you haven’t heard from in years directing you to click on a link? They were probably a victim of a data breach!

If you want to find out whether your email has been in a data breach, or ‘pawnd’ – the click here (NB not a scam!) – HaveIBeenPawnd.com.

Pawnd shows us that data in over 11 billion private accounts have been ‘breached’ and it further reports that the details of over 200 million of these accounts have been ‘pasted’ online – or made available so other people can access them.

NB – data breaches are not always the result of the obvious criminal organisations or lone individuals – the recent Pegasus SpyWare scandal is an example of a corporate enabled state crime in which people’s data was accessed illegally by various governments around the world.

Internet fraud (online scams)

The number of internet frauds, or internet scams out there are, unfortunately, many and varied. They include, but are by no means limited to…..

  • Covid-19 scams – A VERY unfortunate response to pandemic has been the emergence of lots of fake websites and emails (a form of phishing) offering people everything from ‘quality’ (in reality crap) Facemasks to rapid tests for travel to fake vaccines.
  • Get rich quick investment scams – there must be thousands of fake profiles on Instagram and other sites where users claim to be making LOTS of money trading stocks, crypto, currencies, property, and if you invest with them, you get a cut of their profits – you invest a little, get some returns, then you invest more, then your buddy stops contacting you and runs off with your money.
  • Instagram influencer scams – Influencers can get scammed too – especially the up and coming ones – with bogus offers to ‘come to this amazing location or event sponsored by Cosmo and take photos, but oh you’ve got to pay some money upfront for the hotels/ drivers/ flights and so on – they arrive to find the first night paid for, and then nothing else, and no sponsors of course!
  • Phishing scams – ”You’ve won a prize’ – please click here and enter ALL your personal and bank details so we can transfer it into your account.

A common type of phishing scam – don’t click any links!
  • False shopping scams – bargain web sites with ‘too good to be true’ prices – you pay for some goods at a crazy 70% discount and then, err, never receive them!
  • The ‘Nigerian Romance’ (419) scam – this is THE classic scam, 419 refers to the penal code in Nigeria which outlaws it – basically someone sets up a fake profile on a dating site, worms their way into the confidence of the unsuspecting victim they message, this could take months, and eventually they require a substantial sum of money to help with their sister’s or mother’s (or whoever’s) medical expenses following an accident. In the USA alone in 2019 there were 146 00 victims who reported losing an average of $6000 each in these scams. (Further evidence that Americans are VERY stupid, maybe?)
  • Scareware – ‘Your computer is infected please call this number to get it sorted’, which may mean you end up being a victim of the following….
  • The ‘Microsoft Windows has been infected’ (‘Indian Call Centre’) scam – in which either someone from India (probably claiming to be in America or the UK if you push them) calls you (or you may have well called them following their Scareware attack) and helps you get rid of the virus infecting your Microsoft Windows software – accept in the process you give them access to your PC and they download all your data stored on that PC which may include bank details and passwords which they can use to get your money or set up fake accounts in your name, and get money that way, linking to Fraud above.

A recent example of one of these get rich quick scams is outlined in this BBC article – the victim explains how someone he followed on Instagram claimed he was making a lot of money trading currencies and that if people invested with him, he would carry on trading in the same way and deposit their share of the earnings back into their accounts.

The victim said he started off with a small amount of money – £1000, started see returns and gradually invested more and more, until the returns stopped and he’d lost a total of £17 000 to what was a scammer who’d set up a fake account on Instagram.

NB – watch out for instagram: according to one estimate almost HALF of accounts are fake.

Hacking (unauthorised access to networks)

Kevin Poulson is one of the world’s most famous hackers – in 1983 at the age of 17 he hacked into ARPANET, The Pentagon’s computer system. He was quickly caught but not prosecuted as he was a minor at that time.

He ignored the warning he received and carried on hacking, he gained some fame by hacking into Radio station’s servers when they ran competitions guaranteeing the 100th caller would win a prize – he made sure he was that caller and won and Porsche and $20 000.

He’s served five years in jail for his crimes but is now reformed and is a ‘white hat’ hacker who works for Wired magazine. You can read more about his story here. NB this is a great example of a biography providing us insight into criminal behaviour!

Kevin Poulson’s profile picture on Wired.

Another interesting type of hacking is ‘hactivism’ – most commonly associated with the group Anonymous (‘We are Legion’) – they were most active a decade ago around 2010, when they famously took issue with Scientology, hacking their systems and making them less visible on Google.

According to this article Hactivism has had something of a resurge with Covid-19. If you’re interested in finding out what Anonymous are up to, there’s a collection of articles from Wired here.

3D Printing of illegal products

3D printers bring an interesting twist to cybercrime – a good example of cyber enabled crime – it is now possible to print very robust, very powerful guns using a 3D printer, and (I imagine) you can pick up the specifications somewhere from the Dark Web.

It’s not just guns – printers can also be used to print access cards (swipe cards), and even drugs depending on the type of printer you have.

Read this article to find out more.

Cyberwarfare

This is where a nation state engages in attacking government or Corporate systems in an attempt to bring down those systems. Russia has been accused of doing this recently by the U.S President Joe Biden.

NB – it may be difficult to pin the blame on the Russian State as they allegedly get criminal organisations to do this on their behalf and then make no effort to prosecute them.

Numerous countries have accused Russia of committing cyberwarfare agains them.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – The Most Common Crimes in the UK

Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all crimes in England and Wales, but 80% of victims no NOTHING about the criminals who acted against them!

Fraud and Computer Misuse now Account for Half of all Crime in England and Wales (1) , this means that in order to fully understand crime today, students of A-level Sociology REALLY need to know something about these two types of crime.

This is not only an important update relevant to the crime and deviance aspect of the AQA A-level sociology specification, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that students educate themselves about the risks of being a victim of fraud and computer misuse and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and stay safe online.

Defining Fraud and Computer Misuse

The Office for National Statistics defines these crimes as below:

Fraud

Fraud involves a person dishonestly and deliberately deceiving a victim for personal gain of property or money or causing loss or risk of loss to another.

While Fraud can happen offline, most fraud today occurs online and the most common types known to include:

  • banking and payment card frauds
  • consumer and retail frauds
  • advance fee payment frauds

Computer misuse

Computer misuse covers computer viruses and any unauthorised access to computer material, as set out in the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This can include any device using software accessible online, for example: computers smartphones, games consoles and even smart TVs. It includes offences such as:

  • the spreading of viruses.
  • hacking – gaining unauthorised access to information
  • denial-of-service (DoS) attacks – the flooding of internet servers to disrupt or take down a network or website.

Both of these types of crime are types of Cyber Crime (most fraud and all computer misuse).

How much Fraud and Computer Misuse are there in England and Wales?

The latest data from the TCSEW show that Fraud and Computer misuse have been increasing rapidly in recent years, and now account for more than half of all crime in England and Wales.

Fraud and Computer Misuse were only added to the Crime Survey of England and Wales recently, and there are so many incidents that the Office for National Statistics records records two totals – one with these crimes and one without, so we can make a fair comparison of all other crimes over a longer time scale.

This bar chart gives you an idea of just how much Fraud and Computer misuse there is compared to all other types of crime:

The above chart shows incidents, and the ONS estimates there were nearly 10 million adult victims of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 month period to December 2020, that’s more than 1 in 5 adults.

The increase has been so rapid that the UK government has recently declared that there is a ‘new battle front‘ against these types of crimes.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – Key statistics

To get a more in-depth analysis of Fraud and Computer Misuse we need to go back to this 2019 report: The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse (March 2019). This report notes the following:

Fraud

  • The amount of Fraud has increased in the last two years.
  • 76% of victims lost money, but around half lost less than £250.
  • Only 15% of fraud crimes were reported to the police
  • The likelihood of being a victim was generally lower in older age groups and greater in higher income households, there was little variation across gender and ethnicity.
  • In 63% of fraud incidents, there had been no contact between the victim and the offender.
  • Less than 15% of people could say ‘anything’ about the person who committed the Fraud against them – it’s a very ‘anonymous’ crime where the criminals are concerned!

Computer Misuse

  • Computer Misuse incidents have actually decreased in the last two years overall – especially crimes involving viruses being put on devices.
  • 21% of computer virus incidents resulted in data being accessed or lost.
  • As with fraud, older people aged over 75 were less likely to be victims of computer misuse
  • Over 90% of people reported taking security measures to keep themselves safe online, which could explain the decrease in this type of crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Students really need to pay attention to Fraud especially as it is the crime with the highest VICTIM count in England and Wales, so very relevant to victimology – and there is little variation by class, gender and ethnicity, only age it seems.

This material is also relevant to the media and crime topic, because more than half of all fraud is committed online, as are ALL crimes of computer misuse.

From a methods perspective, it’s worth noting that around 80% of victims of these crimes can say NOTHING about the people who committed crimes against them – these are truly faceless crimes, very possibly committed by criminals outside of the UK, so this is also relevant to the topic of globalisation and crime.

Find out More….

This Power Point Presentation from the Office for National Statistics outlines some of the problems with measuring these crimes.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online and protect yourself from these types of crime – there is a section at the end of The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse.

Students might like to do independent research on these types of cyber crime in Scotland and Northern Ireland to get a fuller picture covering the whole of the United Kingdom!

Qualifications

(1) Please forgive the slightly misleading title! The data on fraud and computer misuse are from England and Wales only, but for the sake of having a short, visible and digestible title I shortened this to the UK.

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