UK teens aged 11 to 14 are more likely to be hacking than smoking, shoplifting, being part of a neighborhood gang, or even having sexual intercourse.

These are just one of the conclusions of a 55-page research paper published at the end of 2017 by University College London (UCL) researchers and put together based on data gathered through the Millennium Cohort Study, an annual survey of thousands of UK teenagers on various topics.

One in twenty UK teens engaged in hacking

According to the study's results, 4.8% of survey respondents said they engaged in hacking by accessing someone else's computer, email, or social media accounts without permission, while 0.9% said they sent a computer virus/malware to somebody else via the Internet.

The numbers are skewed towards boys, with 5.6% of male teenagers admitting to hacking, compared to only 3.9% of girls; and 1.5% of boys sending Internet viruses/malware, compared to only 0.3% of girls.

UCL researcher cybercrime charts

The UCL research's results stood out in the eyes of experts primarily because cybercrime-related activities have become widely popular among UK teens, even more of a problem compared to old issues such as smoking.

For comparison, fewer respondents said they engaged in shoplifting (3.6%), vandalism (3.6%), smoking (2.7%), joining a gang (2.2%),  having sexual intercourse (2%), stealing from other persons (1.3%), or assaulting another person with a weapon (1.1%) when compared to hacking-related activities.

UCL researcher other problematic teen behavior

Average age of British hacker is 17

The UCL study also comes to paint a bleaker picture of the UK's teen landscape, more and more interested in cybercrime.

A 2017 report from the National Crime Agency said the average age of British hackers was 17 years old, and that most teen hackers are motivated by gaining their peers' respect.

But despite the high interest in cybercrime-related activities from UK teens, these types of issues still have a long way to go to catch up to other more established problematic teen behaviors. This list includes assaulting another person (31.1%), being a public nuisance (14%), having a problematic substance use (12.3%), binge drinking (10.6%), or cannabis smoking (5.5%), all with percentages higher than cybercrime.

Related Articles:

UK's NCSC Explains How They Handle Discovered Vulnerabilities