Stalking or harassment predates technology, but nowadays Cyberstalking is on the rise because of the ease and anonymity provided by the Internet.
Cyberstalking can be defined as using Internet, emails, social networking sites and other technology to stalk, harass or intimidate a victim which can cause mental distress, anguish and even trauma to the victim.
Cyberstalking can be direct or indirect. Direct cyberstalking includes sending threatening or obscene emails, messages or voice mails. Indirect cyberstalking involves impersonating the victim, spreading rumors about them or using Internet to post hate/obscene messages about them.
A cyber stalker might just follow a person from one social media account to another, persistently messaging them, commenting on or liking all their status.
Why Parents need to be cautious about Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking can cause a lot of mental stress, disturbance and trauma for the victim. There are many dangers of cyberstalking like identity theft, fake profiles, spreading rumors, threats, impersonation, stalking of family and friends and even physical stalking by tracking GPS locations.
Cyberstalking can affect friendships; devastate confidence, reputation, careers and financial credit. When combined with physical stalking, it can lead the victim to physical danger as well.
Protecting yourself and your kids from Cyberstalking
Cyberstalkers might be people you know or they can be complete strangers. In either case cyberstalking is always unwanted, obsessive and illegal. The main weapon for cyber stalkers is information available online about you and how they can control or manipulate it. That’s why it’s important to understand how you can prevent Cyber stalking by following these guidelines:
Keep personal information personal.
Ensure that your personal details like phone number, address, email ids, your office address or your kids’ school name etc. are not easily available online.
Use strong password management
Create strong passwords, which have at least 8-10 characters including symbols. Never share your passwords with anyone and keep changing your passwords frequently.
Review privacy settings
Use privacy settings on all your online accounts to ensure that your information is shared only with your trusted circle of friends. You can opt out of your profile appearing in search results and also limit who can see your posts, photos and videos etc.
Be careful about “friends”
Never accept friend requests from strangers or purely on the basis of mutual friends. Teach your children to be selective about adding people to their friend list and if possible, scan their list to see if they have added any strangers.
Avoid location services
Never make your holiday itineraries or your locations public on any social network. Teach your kids to avoid “checking-in” various locations, which can give their physical location to a stalker.
Search for your name
Every once in a while do an online search for your name as well as for your family members and see what comes up in the search results. If you see any private or sensitive information available online, ensure that it is removed.
Keep your devices secure
Use updated security software to prevent any malware like spyware infecting your computer or other devices. Keep your wireless network secure as well and avoid conducting any financial transactions on open networks or public hot spots.
Educate your children
Keep reinforcing to your children that they should never share any personal information online. Whether on a social media network or an online gaming site, they should never disclose their full name, school, address or phone number. If a stranger contacts them they should inform you immediately.
How to deal with a Cyberstalker
If a cyber stalker is harassing you or your child, then here are a few tips to deal with this situation.
Gather evidence. Keep printouts and copies of all harassing emails, messages, chats etc. Teach your kids how to take screenshots of any page.
You should never directly reply or tackle the stalker. Send them a message and threaten with police action and then cease all contact.
If necessary delete the social media account and create a new one under a different name.
Inform the police and cybercrime cell. If the harasser is a schoolmate or school employee, then involve the school as well.
The Internet has both good and bad people, just like the real world. As parents we need to teach our kids how to avoid the pitfalls of the Internet and enjoy all the wonderful things it has to offer. Being aware and open to discussion will always work in your favor.
About the author
Swapna Thomas is editor and founder at TheMomViews.com, an award winning Parenting blog. She quit the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom and in the process, discovered a whole new career. She truly believes that happy moms = happy world. She loves sufi music and spends way more time daydreaming than one should.