After you’ve taken these steps, and depending on the effect the following suggestion may have on your social life, you may want to consider telling your friends and family what’s going on. In most serious cases, it’s better that you let them know what’s happening before they hear it from someone else. When doing this, however, you want to be sure to keep the details private, so it’s a good idea to talk to your friends and family in person versus sharing the details online.
Following the incident, you’ll want to practice being proactive when it comes to your online safety and privacy. One way to do this is to make sure your social networking profiles are set to the maximum level of privacy so that you aren’t unintentionally providing a roadmap for the perpetrator to your whereabouts or the whereabouts of other family members. It’s a good idea to take a break from using social networks and online forums.
If you’re not a victim but would like to proactively protect yourself and your family members, I recommend following these five steps in addition to the advice above:
Finally, recognize that these steps, though helpful, are not entirely fool-proof and can’t guarantee that you or a family member won’t be harassed online. While it’s important to follow these steps, it’s equally important that you establish a dialogue with your children about why it’s never O.K. to harass or bully someone online. The key to ending cyber-harassment and cyber-stalking starts at home, and involves each of us teaching our children how to be kind, responsible digital citizens.
* *Statistics from the National Crime Prevention Council’s 2010 Cyberbullying Prevention Research study
Technology opens our lives up in ways that weren’t possible even less than a decade ago. My children laugh themselves silly when they hear me waxing nostalgic about the days when we pulled over to the side of the road to use a public pay phone, or called someone on the phone for directions (“What? No cell phone? No GPS navigation?”). Today you can chat with someone whether they’re in the next room or in another country with ease, via a variety of technologies. It’s all fast and amazing.
On the flip side of that good fortune is that same technology has also provided a way for people to do bad things.
Cyberstalking, simply put, is online stalking. It has been defined as the use of technology, particularly the Internet, to harass someone. Common characteristics include false accusations, monitoring, threats, identity theft, and data destruction or manipulation. Cyberstalking also includes exploitation of minors, be it sexual or otherwise.
The harassment can take on many forms, but the common denominator is that it’s unwanted, often obsessive, and usually illegal. Cyberstalkers use email, instant messages, phone calls, and other communication devices to stalk, whether it takes the form of sexual harassment, inappropriate contact, or just plain annoying attention to your life and your family’s activities.
Kids use the term “stalking” to describe following someone’s activities via their social network. My own children accuse me of being their “stalker” for keeping tabs on their digital lives. It’s important that we not devalue the serious nature of the crime of cyberstalking by using the term incorrectly. A recent television commercial for a major cellular provider depicts a young woman spying on her crush through his bedroom window while she monitors his online activities on her cell phone. While it’s meant to be a humorous ad, it’s extremely unsettling when stalking occurs in the real world.
Interestingly, this same ad points to an important fact about cyberstalking; it is often perpetrated not by strangers, but by someone you know. It could be an ex, a former friend, or just someone who wants to bother you and your family in an inappropriate way.
How Cyberstalking Harms
Cyberstalking can be terribly frightening. It can destroy friendships, credit, careers, self-image, and confidence. Ultimately it can lead the victim into far greater physical danger when combined with real-world stalking. Yes, we’re talking serious stuff here. Victims of domestic violence are often cyberstalking victims. They, like everybody else, need to be aware that technology can make cyberstalking easy.Spyware software can be used to monitor everything happening on your computer or cell phone, giving tremendous power and information to cyberstalkers.
Here are a few important pointers to help you thwart cyberstalking, whether it’s directed at you, your PC, or your family:
- Maintain vigilance over physical access to your computer and other Web-enabled devices like cell phones. Cyberstalkers use software and hardware devices (sometimes attached to the back of your PC without you even knowing) to monitor their victims.
- Be sure you always log out of your computer programs when you step away from the computer and use a screensaver with a password. The same goes for passwords on cell phones. Your kids and your spouse should develop the same good habits.
- Make sure to practice good password management and security. Never share your passwords with others. And be sure to change your passwords frequently! This is very important.
- Do an online search for your name or your family members’ now and then to see what’s available about you and your kids online. Don’t be shy about searching social networks (including your friends’ and colleagues’), and be sure to remove anything private or inappropriate.
- Delete or make private any online calendars or itineraries–even on your social network–where you list events you plan to attend. They could let a stalker know where you’re planning to be and when.
- Use the privacy settings in all your online accounts to limit your online sharing with those outside your trusted circle. You can use these settings to opt out of having your profile appear when someone searches for your name. You can block people from seeing your posts and photos, too.
- If you suspect that someone is using spyware software to track your everyday activities, and you feel as if you’re in danger, only use public computers or telephones to seek help. Otherwise, your efforts to get help will be known to your cyberstalker and this may leave you in even greater danger.
- As always, use good, updated security software to prevent someone from getting spyware onto your computer via a phishing attack or an infected Web page. Check the app store for your mobile devices to see what security software is available. Or visit the Norton Mobile page to see what programs are available for your device’s platform. Security software could allow you to detect spyware on your device and decrease your chances of being stalked.
Teach Your Children
You might sound like a broken record, but keep on telling your kids they should never provide any personal information about themselves online, no matter how safe they think it might be. Tell them never to indicate their real name, school, address, or even the city where they live. Phone numbers are not to be distributed online, and if a stranger contacts them via any method, they need to let you know right away. Encourage your kids to tell you if they’re being cyberstalked. As parents, you should report cyberstalking to a teacher or school administrator and, if it seems serious, the police.
If you’re being cyberstalked, remember to keep a copy of any message or online image that could serve as proof. In fact, show your children how to use the “print screen” or other keyboard functions to save screenshots.
Most important, don’t be afraid to report cyberstalking to the police. Many police departments have cybercrime units, and cyberstalking isa crime.
Trolling: Who does it and why?
By Tom de Castella and Virginia Brown
An internet “troll” has been jailed for mocking dead teenagers on various websites. Public figures, including Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart, have also been victims of trolling.
So what is it and why do people do it?
For some the word derives from a fishing term for towing bait behind a boat, for others it comes from the Norse monsters. But today trolling is more likely to involve a keyboard and mouse than a trawler, and if not a monster, it is a very modern menace.
Opponents might characterise it as the internet equivalent of road rage, vandalising a grave, or kicking a man when he’s down.
Trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comment forms are bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Supporters argue it’s about humour, mischief and freedom of speech. But for many the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse verges on hate speech.
In its most extreme form it is a criminal offence. On Tuesday Sean Duffy was jailed for 18 weeks after posting offensive messages and videos on tribute pages about young people who had died. One of those he targeted was 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde, who had been killed by a train. “I fell asleep on the track lolz” was one of the messages he left on a Facebook page set up by her family.
Duffy is the second person to be jailed for trolling in the UK. Last year Colm Coss was imprisoned for posting obscene messages on Facebook tribute sites, including that of Jade Goody.
Trolling appears to be part of an international phenomenon that includes cyberbullying. One of the first high-profile cases emerged in the US state of Missouri in 2006, when 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself after being bullied online. The bully, Lori Drew, was a middle-aged neighbour who had set up a MySpace account to win – and later betray – her trust. Drew was acquitted of unauthorised computer use in 2009 due to concerns that a conviction would criminalise false online identities.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects free speech and makes it difficult to punish people who post offensive messages. But concern over internet vitriol is growing.
Facebook’s former marketing director Randi Zuckerberg and Google head Eric Schmidt have both suggested anonymous posting should be phased out.
One of the difficulties is that trolling is a broad term, taking in everything from a cheeky provocation to violent threats. And why people do it continues to baffle the experts.
“Online people feel anonymous and disinhibited,” says Prof Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University. “They lower their emotional guard and in the heat of the moment may troll either reactively or proactively.”
It is usually carried out by young adult males for amusement, boredom and revenge, he adds.
Arthur Cassidy, a social media psychologist, says young people’s determination to create an online identity makes them vulnerable to trolling. Secrecy is jettisoned in favour of self-publicity on Facebook, opening the way for ridicule, jealousy and betrayal.
And the need to define themselves through their allegiance to certain celebrities creates a world in which the rich and famous become targets for personal abuse. As a result trolling is “virtually uncontrollable” until the government forces websites to clamp down, he says.
But it’s not just young people. Scan any football, music or fan site and there are people of all ages taking part in the most vituperative attacks. But many of the theories that have been put forward as to why people do it don’t stand up, says Tom Postnes, professor of social psychology at Groningen University in the Netherlands.
After researching “flaming” – the term for trolling in the early days of the internet – he rejects the idea that people “lose it” when online. If anything they become more attuned to social convention, albeit the specific conventions of the web. Provoking people appears to be the norm in some online communities, he says.
Most trolling is not criminal – it’s about having a laugh, says Rob Manuel, co-founder of the website B3ta, which specialises in altering photographs for comic effect. “Trolling taps into people’s desire to poke fun, make trouble and cause annoyance,” he says.
He first became aware of the phenomenon in the 90s when a friend cross-posted on fan sites for Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, asking: “Who’d win in a fight – the Emperor or Gandalf?” Manuel says his friend sat back and laughed like some “mad scientist looking at insects in a jar” as hundreds of passionate posts followed.
We’re all capable of becoming a troll, says Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist in the US and author of You Are Not A Gadget. Lanier admits he has sometimes behaved badly online and believes the cloak of anonymity can encourage people to react in extreme ways.
“The temptation is there and we can get caught up in impulses. If someone reacts, it’s emotional and it can be hard to get out of. We can all become trolls.”
Former Facebook executive Zuckerberg says anonymous posting should be phased out
Twitter has given the public direct access to celebrities. And stars, including Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart, have temporarily left the website after coming under fire. Internet experts say the key is not to “feed the troll” by offering them a response. Comedian Dom Joly takes a different approach.
He describes himself as “troll slayer” and takes pleasure in tracking down the culprits and exposing them to public shame, especially from close family.
“There’s something about a bully that really annoys me,” he says. “They’ll say something online that they’d never dare to say to your face.”
The deviousness is “freaky”. He discovered that one of those who’d threatened him was a 14-year-old girl with nine different online identities. They aren’t always very intelligent about how they do it, he says.
“One guy tweeted from his work account that he hoped my kids die of cancer. I let the MD of the firm know and the guy was fired. I felt no guilt, he should have gone to prison.”
Some think regulation is needed, but trolling is not the internet’s fault, says Jeff Jarvis, author of Public Parts. “The internet does not create special threats. It’s a public square where people will be saying all sorts of things, some of them offensive.”
The answer is for newspaper websites and online forums to employ sufficient moderators to prevent the comments spiralling into petty vendettas, he says. To ban online anonymity in order to prevent trolling would be to remove the right of whistleblowers and dissidents to get their message across, he adds.
Manuel agrees. “People are saying nasty, stupid things. So deal with it. Shutting down free speech and stamping on people’s civil liberties is not a price worth paying.”
Source: BBC News
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