Online harassment — whether it be cyberbullying, cyberstalking or a combination of the two — can have serious and ongoing emotional, physical and legal ramifications. Victims may find themselves living in a constant state of fear, suffering from increased anxiety and feeling unsafe. The good news: there are steps victims can take to heal feelings caused by online harassment. Two experts explain to Parentology how parents can help teens “reclaim their power” after cyber abuse.
The Law is on Your Side
Many state jurisdictions have specific laws surrounding cybercrimes. Depending on the laws of each state, bullying and stalking may be prosecuted in differing degrees. For harassment involving a sexual component — like stalkers accessing private accounts to leak a user’s naked photos, or bullies bribing teens into sending nude pictures — perpetrators may be prosecuted for committing a sex crime. Parents can help their child by
Cybercrimes are crimes, and punishable by everything from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the harassment. Knowing one’s harasser is behind bars, or under investigation, may help a teen regain a feeling of strength by knowing they helped to put them there.
Patience is Key
Cybersecurity expert Jamie Cambell says the biggest thing teens can do to take their power back, is to move past the event. Seeing legal action through to the end can help as well, but it takes time. “Patience takes a toll, but if you truly wish to take action against the perpetrators, then you must play the long game,” he says. “After gathering proof and contacting the authorities, you must simply wait.”
Cambell suggests helping your teen stay on top of their case by following up on their report and checking in from time-to-time to make sure authorities know they’re serious about pursuing their case. “It’s too dangerous for an individual to be playing vigilante,” he says, noting it’s safer for your teen to gather as much proof as possible, then pass the information onto the authorities.
Parents and teens should feel empowered to follow up and make sure their case is being handled satisfactorily. “If things don’t seem to be moving forward, then you should be looking to contact organizations, journalists and media outlets to take your story further,” Cambell says.
Experts for Hire
If you’re not having any luck with local law enforcement, find someone like Alexis Moore, Esq, who specializes in cyberstalking and cyberbullying. Moore, who wrote A Parent’s Guide to Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying as well as Surviving a Cyberstalker, advises victims to begin documenting their harassment as soon as they realize a pattern is unfolding. “You need dates, times, details, screenshots, all the evidence you can possibly put together in the most orderly fashion possible,” she says.
Moore also explains that details will shift and change as time passes, especially when there’s trauma involved, so parents don’t want teens trying to go by memory alone. Consider taking off some of the pressure by helping gather details that can be found on their devices, as long as doing so doesn’t add another layer of stress to their experience. Many teens will feel powerless after harassment, letting them make choices like these may help them feel a little more in control.
In the end, reinforcing the experience doesn’t define them, can help the harassed begin to recover. If parents find their teen is still struggling, they should seek professional help, such as from a therapist who