Ever since social media networks were created, parents have been concerned with cyberstalking.
Also known as cyberbullying, Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it 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 involve harassment and one party invading another person’s boundaries.
Many states in America have created laws against cyberstalking, making it a crime. Depending on the state and the extent of the stalking, it 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 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 online 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 Children from Cyberstalkers
The first thing that you should do to protect children from cyberstalkers and online harassment is to educate them. Teach them the signs of cyberstalking and let them know what kinds of behaviors are unacceptable. Many children simply do not know anything about cyberstalking or why it’s dangerous.
Also warn your children not to talk to strangers on the internet — just like in the streets. 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, and we offer a number of resources in our Parental Controls section on Parentology.
However, the best way to protect your children from cyberstalkers is to make sure they feel comfortable talking to you when 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.
What if Your Child Is a Victim of Cyberstalking?
If you suspect your child has become the victim of cyberstalking, then you should take action. Report it immediately to local law enforcement. FightCyberstalking.org offers this advice:
It is imperative that you seek help from your local law enforcement agency or file a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3 if you are a victim of a cyberstalker. It is also important that you do not delete emails, chats, phone messages, and harassing private message board messages so that you can present this evidence to your local law enforcement agent.Crime Complaint Center IC3
Psychology Today called cyberstalking, “the fastest growing crime,” and with children 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.
What Is Cyberstalking? – Sources
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