Date of Award

Winter 2009

Project Type


Program or Major

Justice Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Ellen Cohn


With the various advancements made in technology over the last few decades, computer crime has evolved and many are used to victimize more and more American internet users every year (NW3C, 2008). However, no researcher has examined neither how computer crime seriousness is perceived by internet users nor which (if any) social factors affect how the seriousness of computer crime is perceived. The current study attempted to determine internet users' perceptions of computer crime seriousness versus traditional crime seriousness. In addition, the study tried to determine the effects of the following factors as they relate to computer crime seriousness: personal victimization, personal offending, friend offending, perception of crime prevalence in the U.S., and perceived likelihood of offender punishment. A survey was created and used to measure experience and perceptions of 313 college students from a Northern New England University. Results indicate computer crimes were rated significantly more serious in most cases, seriousness scores varied significantly by individual crime, crimes against children were rated significantly more serious than crimes against adults and perceived likelihood of offender punishment relates strongly with seriousness perception variation.