Fear of viruses, spyware cut down illegal downloads

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The amount of illegal downloading by U.S. residents between 8- and 18-years-old has dropped by 17 percent in the last two years, due mainly to growing fear of viruses and spyware, new research has claimed.

According to the results of a recent nationwide survey released by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), 60 percent of survey participants reported illegally downloading either software, music, movies or games during 2004. However, in 2006, the percentage who illegally downloaded dropped to 43 percent.

When survey participants were asked what worries them about downloading software, music, movies or games from the internet without paying, the top responses were the fear of downloading a computer virus (63 percent), downloading spyware (52 percent) and getting in trouble with the law (49 percent). Fear of getting in trouble with parents ranked fourth with youth (40 percent).

"This study indicates that kids understand the consequences of illegal downloading, and that education and awareness about the risks, as well as online sites to legally download content have been a critical component in affecting these behaviors," says Diane Smiroldo, vice president of public affairs for BSA. "But still far too many young people are acting inappropriately online."

The new study results, prepared by Harris Interactive, show that in 2004, 53 percent of young adults admitted to illegally downloading music, while in the 2006 study, 32 percent report doing so.

"Kids probably assume that whatever punishment they will receive from their parents will be far less unpleasant than either getting a computer virus or getting in trouble with the law," said Laurence Steinberg, psychology professor at Temple University and author of "You and Your Adolescent." "This suggests that one thing parents might do with their kids is stress the possible legal consequences and virus problems."

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