More computers, less crime for young Swedes

Less young Swedes are getting involved in crime than in the past because they are instead spending time at home with their computers.

More computers, less crime for young Swedes
A kid playing Minecraft at a Stockholm event. Photo: Nora Lorek/TT

That's one theory for why young people in Sweden between the age of 15 and 20 are committing far fewer crimes than they were in the 1990s, according to new statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå).

“With youth crime, socializing with other young people plays a big role because a large proportion of that crime takes place in groups during free time, often under the influence of alcohol. So when a young person's socializing habits change to them socializing via social media and playing games at home, it will impact criminality,” Stockholm University criminology professor Felipe Estrada told The Local.

Brå's figures show that the number of young people in the 15-20 age bracket convicted of crimes in Sweden dropped by 40.9 percent between 1995 and 2015, per 100,000 citizens.

Youth assault reduced by around 50 percent in that time, and theft by a massive 70 percent. In 1995 there were 31,058 prosecutions of people in the 15-20 age bracket, while in 2015 there were 19,042.

“A further factor is of course the control that there is over kids today. That comes from both the parents obviously having better supervision of their kids when they're at home rather than outside, and also through them getting more involved in the lives of kids,” Estrada noted.

The impact of technology on the behaviour of young people in Sweden was previously shown in a March study which suggested social media use is making them stricter about alcohol consumption than before, as is a change in priorities that means more emphasis is being placed on keeping fit.

And a change in priorities could also have contributed to the changes in youth crime levels, Estrada thinks:

“Many kids state from as early as high school age that they feel their school work is very important because they see it as impacting their chances to study further. Life on social media can also have a controlling effect because young people want to show themselves on there to others in a favourable way.”

Similar patterns of reduced youth crime and drinking can be seen in other Nordic countries as well as places with similarly good data like the Netherlands, he noted.

But the criminology expert emphasized that the impact of technology on crime is not always positive, and more studies in the area are needed.

“We should remember that computers can also work as a tool for crime, and social media as an arena in which you can be exposed to crime. Directly mapping how a young person's screen time impacts youth crime isn't so easy, and more research is clearly needed,” he concluded.


Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime