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Opportunity and Self-Control: Do they Predict Multiple Forms of Online Victimization?

Abstract

This study investigates the predictors of four types of cybercrime victimization/experiences: online harassment, hacking, identity theft, and receiving nude photos or explicit content. The effects of victimization opportunity and low self-control are examined as the primary independent variables in logistic regression analyses of data collected from a large sample of undergraduates enrolled at two universities in the United States. Results suggest that opportunity is positively related to each of the four types of online victimization, and that low self-control is associated with person-based, but not computer-based, forms of cybercrime. These findings speak to the utility, and also the limitations, of these perspectives in understanding cybercrime victimization risk among college students, and to the potentially criminogenic nature of the Internet.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Conventionally, students aged 18 to 24 years are considered to be traditional college students, whereas older students (i.e., over age 25) are viewed as non-traditional. The survey was administered only to traditional college students, as they are a homogeneous group in terms of their lifestyles and routine activities, whereas non-traditional students, by definition, often have differing home and work responsibilities.

  2. 2.

    As with the other outcome variables, the measure of online harassment was dichotomized to examine the likelihood of experiencing victimization, rather than to explain the frequency of victimization. Doing so also simplified the analyses while aiding in interpretation of the results.

  3. 3.

    Reliability analysis for the opportunity construct produced a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.69. Thresholds for interpreting acceptable α coefficients vary, and should largely be based upon theoretical knowledge of the scale. Based on past research, and existing theory, we contend that an α of 0.69 is acceptable under the circumstances (see Holt & Bossler, 2016 for review of literature linking online behaviors to victimization). A similar approach was taken and explained by Koss and colleagues in their discussion of the reliability and validity of the Sexual Experiences Survey (see Koss et al., 2007).

  4. 4.

    Students were asked about their sexual attraction to other people and asked to select an orientation that best described them from a list including: only attracted to females, mostly attracted to females, equally attracted to females and males, mostly attracted to males, only attracted to males, and not sure. Females who indicated they were only attracted to males, and males who indicated they were only attracted to females were coded as heterosexual. Low frequencies amongst the other combinations necessitated collapsing the remaining individuals into a “non-heterosexual” category.

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Correspondence to Bradford W. Reyns.

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Reyns, B.W., Fisher, B.S., Bossler, A.M. et al. Opportunity and Self-Control: Do they Predict Multiple Forms of Online Victimization?. Am J Crim Just 44, 63–82 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-018-9447-5

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Keywords

  • Online victimization
  • Cybercrime
  • Opportunity
  • Routine activities
  • Self-control