The Cyberspace Research Unit’s mission is to:
- empower children and young people with the tools, knowledge and skills they need to navigate safely in cyberspace
- explore how criminals use the Internet and to examine the implications for investigative strategies
Details of the research team can be found on the CRU profile page.
One of the key aims of the research unit is to provide training materials not only for children, but for all those who work with or for children. Crucially, the unit develops online safety advice and tailors it to reflect the ways in which children use the Internet. Our aim is to create an immersive programme of education designed to equip parents, carers, teachers and children, with the tools, knowledge and skills they need to navigate safely in the online environment. To this end, the Cyberspace Research Unit offers a part-time certificate ‘Child Safety on the Internet‘ which provides an introduction to current and emerging Internet and mobile technologies and services, and their use by children and young people in communication, information sharing and social networking.
The Cyberspace Research Unit also informs operational policing perspectives and risk assessment processes through a comprehensive analysis of online criminal activity. Through the application of a range of statistical techniques and qualitative analyses, the unit explores behavioural repertories of online criminals to afford insights into how individuals operate when engaging in illegal and harmful activities in an online context. Working closely with police, representatives of the research team speak at conferences and produce publications as the main vehicles for transmission and sharing of ideas in the arena.
The Cyberspace Research Unit was established by Rachel O’Connell in January 2000 as part of the Psychology Department at the University of Central Lancashire. The research unit secured funding from the European Commission in January 2001 to co-ordinate the ONCE Project (Online Children’s Education). The aim of the project was to develop web based educational materials designed to empower parents, teachers, carers and children with the tools, knowledge and skills they need to navigate cyberspace safely.
The ONCE project was extremely successful and the Commission funded the Cyberspace Research Unit again, as UK co-ordinators of the Safe Borders project, a pan European network towards a multi-channel, multipurpose awareness campaign promoting the Safer Internet campaign. Since then, the work of the unit has been co-ordinated by Dr Jo Bryce and is involved in a number of research projects.