Melbourne, July 8 : Alcohol abuse and Internet is leading to an increase in the youth crime rates in Australia.
According to police crime statistics from four states, alcohol and social networking websites such as Facebook and YouTube have generated behavioural changes leading to a marked increase in youth offences, especially girls and children of both sexes under 14.
"We are seeing consistent trends indicating young people are becoming more violent," The Australian quoted Paul Mazerolle, principle invetigator and director of Griffith University's Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance, as saying.
"There are clearly changes in the behaviour of young people responsible for this crime," he added.
The figures show that the number of violent crimes committed by youngsters between 10 and 19 years in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia have increased from 17,944 in 1996-97 to 23,382 in 2005-06, which included homicide, assault, sexual offences, robbery and extortion.
Even the proportion of violent young female increased from 23 per cent to 26 per cent in the same period, and from 30 per cent to 37 per cent for those aged between 10 and 14.
Boys between 10 and 14 were responsible for 519 in 100,000 violent crimes in 1996-97, which rose to 547 per 100,000 in 2005-06.
Furthermore, the number of violent crimes committed by girls between 10 and 14 rose from 166 in 100,000 to 229 over that time.
The rate of assaults by girls in the younger age bracket went up by 60 per cent in Queensland, 45 per cent in NSW and 36 per cent in Victoria.
"Youth violence is still largely driven by young males, but young females are trending upwards," said Professor Mazerolle.
"The long-term increases show sharp percentage increases for the younger age group -- those between 10 and 14," he added.
Websites had fundamentally changed the way young people related to each other, he said, and this could be linked to the increase in youth crime.
"It's generated competition and encouraged them to look at ways of gaining status."
"Young people want to demonstrate superiority and toughness. That's why we've seena proliferation of things like the videotaping of violent confrontations," he said.
Professor Mazerolle said education and the justice system needed to adjust to the changing youth culture.