Cyber stalking is, unfortunately, becoming more and more commonplace. Who can do it via social media sites, mobile phones, gaming sites, and other online avenues? Cyber stalking frequently leads to physical stalking, leading to crimes such as robbery, murder, suicide and other forms of violence.
Parents whose children spend a great deal of time online need to teach their children how to spot a stalker and what to do about such an individual. Following is some helpful information along these lines, along with tips on how to prevent cyber stalking in the first place.
How to Spot a Stalker
Stalkers commonly engage in a practice called “grooming”. This involves getting to know the victim and earning their trust through deceit, lies and flattery.
Young people who chat with others online do not need to be overly fearful of being accosted by an online stalker. Many people enjoy the freedom of talking with others via the net ethically and safely. However, a person should be wary of an online “friend” who is overly interested in getting to know them. Stalkers commonly ask for a person’s full (real) name and information such as an address, where one goes to school, interests, sports played, etc. A young person should never answer personal questions of this nature unless they know the individual in question. This information can be used by a stalker to stalk the individual in question physically and will put a victim at risk.
Facebook “friend” requests should be treated with caution, especially when they come from third parties that one does not know. It is always wise to learn more about a potential “friend” before accepting them into one’s circle of friends. Visit the person’s Facebook page and see if they have mutual friends. Look at their interests; most young people are not shy about stating what they are interested in and not interested in. Stalkers, on the other hand, provide limited information about themselves to avoid getting caught by the people they are trying to befriend.
Another sign that a person may be a stalker is if they seem only to have a certain type of friends, i.e. teenage girls, teenage boys, etc. Most people have a wide range of friends of both sexes, along with family members.
Who should note that stalkers also make liberal use of flattery? Young people with low self-esteem are particularly vulnerable, as they naturally enjoy comments about their looks, intelligence, capabilities, etc. Young people then respond to these comments and are drawn by someone who likes them a lot.
Positive comments from people who do not know should be treated with caution. Ignoring the comments without responding is fine; however, a person should attempt to find out more about the stalker if the comments continue to pop up. Blog comments should be treated with extreme caution, as a stalker reading a person’s blog will likely know details about a person, such as a name, age, location, etc.
Another form of stalking involves mean comments, harassment and threats of violence. These forms of stalking give a stalker pleasure because they can rile a person up and upset them. Young people should understand that these comments should be reported to parents and not simply ignored, as stalkers of this nature may become even worse at trying to get a person’s attention.
What to do About an Online Stalker
Unfortunately, many law enforcement officials do not have the training and resources needed to respond to stalking adequately. recently noted that police are usually hesitant to respond to complaints of stalking if the victim cannot provide any form of identification that would pinpoint the stalker. There is little to no chance of the victim and stalker meeting.
Even so, serious cases of stalking should always be reported to local law enforcement officials. If there is a possibility of the stalker being a student or employee of a young person’s school, then Who should notify the school administration as well? If the stalking occurs on a gaming site, forum or another site, then the site administrators should be notified as well, as they can shut the stalker’s account down for such behavior.
Parents should do what they can to provide police and school administration members with information that may indicate the stalker’s identity. If the stalker is commenting on a young person’s blog, it is not hard to find their IP address, which is the address of the computer the comment is being made from and can help pinpoint a stalker’s geographical location. The WordPress.com blog platform provides the IP address of every single person who leaves a blog comment, and this can be used by law enforcement to find and stop an online stalker. Extremetracking.com is a helpful free tool that can be used by anyone to see the IP address of a site visitor and helps pinpoint whether an unknown individual is coming to one’s blog regularly.
Suppose the victim knows the stalker’s social media account name. In that case, these should also be provided with information regarding when the conversations started, what means of communication have been used, etc. Who could obtain these records from one’s service provider if phone or texting was involved? The more information the police have, the more likely they will follow up on reports and find the guilty party.
Taking Protective Measures
Many online stalkers enjoy harassing people online and making them feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, as noted above, many stalkers move on from online stalking to physical stalking. A person who has been accosted by a stalker online may be in danger, especially if they have posted or disclosed personal information that indicates address, school, circle of friends, daily habits, etc.
A young person may need to shut down all social media accounts and open a new one that restricts access to known friends and relatives only. If the stalking occurred on a gaming account or forum, a person should create a new account with new information (username, location, etc.). If Who involved a mobile phone, one should contact their service provider and ask for a new phone number.
Changing daily habits and never heading out to a lonely place on one’s own is also important. Young people should also be taught how to be aware of their surroundings and notice suspicious behavior, such as the same unknown vehicle parked outside of school, near the house and close to where a person hangs out, shops, plays sports, etc. A person who suspects a stalker may be in the neighborhood should immediately report this to law enforcement officials.
If a stalker is caught, then press charges. Never let a stalker off the hook, even if you know the individual in question and they seem sorry. Stalkers are very good at manipulating people and making victims feel the problem was partly her or their fault. Young people should be taught that this is never the case. Bringing a stalker to justice not only protects the young person who was being harassed but also prevents the stalker from harassing others.
Preventing Stalking from Occurring in the First Place
There is no 100% foolproof method to prevent stalking from occurring, but there are measures that a young person can take to reduce the odds of being harassed by a stalker.
First, a young person should be taught that private information should remain private. As noted above, a young person should never give information to someone they have not met “in real life.” In many cases, a stalker who cannot get a young person to talk to them will leave this person alone in search of an easier victim.
Keeping a blog private is also important. Keeping a blog locked with a password is one of the most secure ways to maintain one’s privacy, but young people who are unwilling to go to such great lengths should at least make sure that the blog is not showing up in search engine results. Facebook requests from unknown individuals should always be denied unless a young person can verify the identity of the individual making the friend request.
Who should also guard one’s phone number with care? While this may seem like a simple bit of information, it can be used to find a person’s real name and address, thus leading to not only online stalking but also physical stalking or worse.
There are several things that a young person can do to avoid becoming a victim of cyberstalking. However, any young person who uses the internet regularly can be accosted by an online stalker, so parents must teach young people how to handle potentially dangerous situations. A young person should be taught never to give personal information to online friends. A genuine online friend will be happy to chat with a person without knowing what school they attend, their home address, etc.
Young people should also be taught to report attempts at stalking to parents as soon as possible. Many stalkers are not in their right minds and can cause serious harm if they continue pursuing. Parents and their children should file an official complaint with law enforcement and provide as much information as possible about the stalker. This makes it possible for police to follow through, find the guilty party and bring them to justice.
Young people who learn how to use the internet responsibly will be able to enjoy the company of online friends without danger. This skill is an imperative one, as it not only protects a young person now but also in the future.