Internet Violence and How You Can Protect Yourself and Loved Ones
Internet violence is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. This unfortunate threat to a person’s safety targets people of all genders, ages, races and socioeconomic statuses. Cyberstalking and cyberbullying are the two most common forms of Internet violence, with teens and adult women being the most common victim categories. The Working to Halt Online Abuse Organization states that they receive about 50 to 75 online harassment and/or cyberstalking cases per week. Thousands more victims do not even report these crimes, therefore it is believed by this organization and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that thousands of people are either harassed or stalked online every week.
How You Become a Victim
Some people may be a victim and not even realize it. Cyberstalking comes in several forms, including:
- Embarrassment, harassment and humiliating the victim
- Harassing the victim’s friends, family or employers/colleagues
- Ruining the victim financially
- Using tactics to scare the victim
Cyberbullying is another form of Internet violence that is very prevalent. This includes:
- Tricking the victim through the aggressor acting like they are someone else
- Tricking the victim into giving out personal information
- Posting the victim’s photos without consent
- Spreading rumors and lies about the victim
- Forwarding or sending mean emails, IM’s and text messages about and to the victim
Anyone can become a victim of these two crimes. With laws still being relatively new and these crimes often being difficult to prove, everyone needs to learn how to not become a victim in the first place. In 2000, the Violence Against Women Act, made cyberstalking a component of federal interstate stalking statute. However, most legislative prohibitions against these two crimes are at the state level.
Giving out personal information, posting photos and discussing one’s private life on the internet are the leading causes of Internet violence. Once the information is out there, it is always out there and those seeking to stalk or harass can easily use what most people see as innocent Internet behavior to turn them into victims.
How to Protect Yourself
Protecting ourselves from Internet violence is an ongoing process. Those who have social networking accounts should make sure their profiles are private to everyone that they have not accepted as a friend. Everyone should ensure that all photos of themselves, family members and friends are not easily accessible. For example, do not allow just anyone to have access to photos. To be completely safe, do not post photos online. Just use a simple head shot for social networking profiles and no other photos. It is also important to not post videos of oneself or of family.
Never give out any personal or financial information to anyone online, because things like spyware or impersonation can result in personal and financial information getting into the wrong hands. Change all passwords once every month and use complicated passwords, containing letters and numbers and alternating between caps and lowercase.
If cyberstalking or cyberbullying is ever suspected, collect every piece of evidence, such as emails, IMs (use screenshots), take notes on all security breaches (such as, someone breaking into a personal social networking account) that includes details like dates, times, what they did, etc., and take all evidence to the proper authorities immediately.
FBI Suggestions on Avoiding Internet Violence
The FBI suggests the following:
- If internet violence is suspected, act quickly in contacting the authorities
- If it is suspected, have all computers in the home checked by a professional
- Change all personal and financial account information if stalking or bullying is suspected, immediately
- Change passwords monthly
- Check all credit reports at least once a year, preferably every three months
- Never give out personal information unless absolutely sure the person receiving it is legit (such as verified online employers)
- Always keep your guard up and be suspicious of anything asking for identifying information
- Google yourself once a month to ensure none of your information is out on the internet
- Never have your home address readily available
Working to Halt Online Abuse. (2010). Online Harassment/Cyberstalking Statistics. Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from Working to Halt Online Abuse: https://www.haltabuse.org/resources/stats/index.shtml
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2010). Cyber Investigations. Retrieved on September 14, 2010 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation: https://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/cyberhome.htm
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