Ever since social media networks were created, cyberstalking is something that many parents have been concerned about. There have unfortunately been too many news stories about children being the victim of cyberstalking from around the country.
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines cyberstalking as the use of electronic communication to harass or threaten someone with physical harm. Cyberstalking is very similar to traditional stalking except that it’s done explicitly online. However, both forms of stalking involve harassment and one party invading another person’s boundaries.
Many states in America have created laws which make cyberstalking a crime. Depending on the state and the extent of the stalking, cyberstalking can either be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. In general, the more severe the cyberstalking is, the more likely it is to be classified as a felony. For example, in the state of Florida, a person who makes a credible threat of bodily injury online can be charged with felony cyberstalking. The punishment for third-degree felony cyberstalking is up to ten years in prison. However, misdemeanor cyberstalking sentences are significantly less severe. A misdemeanor cyberstalking conviction can result in up to a year of prison time.
Examples of Cyberstalking
There are many
- Collecting personal information such as credit card numbers digitally
- Spreading false rumors about a person
- Threatening to harm a person online
- Hacking into another person’s account
- Hacking into a person’s webcam
- Creating fear and paranoia around another person’s name
In 2018, a Boston man named Joseph Kukstis was charged with cyberstalking for allegedly sending hundreds of degrading messages to his ex-girlfriend. He also allegedly created a fake Instagram account and sent out intimate pictures of the victim to her friends. This is just one example of cyberstalking and the damage that it can do.
How to Protect Your Children from Cyberstalkers
The first thing that you should do to protect your children from cyberstalking is to educate them about it. You should teach them the signs of cyberstalking and let them know what kind of behavior is unacceptable. Many children simply do not know anything about cyberstalking or why it’s dangerous.
You should also warn your children not to talk to strangers on the internet. If you suspect your child is susceptible to risky behavior, place the computer in a public area of your house. That way, your children will be discouraged from doing anything that is potentially dangerous.
Many internet service providers maintain parental control and monitoring options. So, you can inquire about this option if you are extremely concerned about cyberstalking.
However, the best way to protect your children from cyberstalking is to make sure they feel comfortable talking to you when and if they have problems. If they know that they can trust you, then they’ll be more likely to communicate with you if they’re being cyberstalked.
If they’re being cyberstalked, and if they tell you about it, then you can report the stalker to the police or to the local school system. Both of these are good options for discouraging cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking is a serious crime and it’s increasing in frequency. Psychology Today even labeled cyberstalking, “the fastest growing crime.” Children today are online and on their phones more than ever before. It’s crucial for parents to be aware of cyberstalking and the potential harm it can cause.
If you suspect your child has become the victim of cyberstalking, then you should take action. Report it immediately, so your child won’t experience any negative effects from it.