In the year 2006, in US a 14-year-old girl named Megan Meier ended up her life by committing suicide. The incident behind this sorrow was Cyberstalking. For every parent who has got their child at the beginning stage of using Internet must know what is Cyberstalking? This 14-year-old girl, Megan Meier had added a request from a 16-year-old handsome boy by name Josh Evans on MySpace (a social networking website). Both have continued their online relationship for a month or so and the relationship took an ugly turn later on as the boy started to criticize her about her characters, looks, etc which did not end there. The “online” boy started to ruin her through hundreds of teasing messages spoiling her image among her friends too. When a sweet and intimate relationship turn back with unexpected and unbearable pain the girl committed suicide. She is no more! The boy Josh Evans has vanished forever.
A month after Megan’s parents discovered that Josh Evans (the online boy) is none other than their neighbor Lori Drew. The neighbor Lori Drew has got a daughter and wanted to know about her daughter through Megan if she says anything nasty. Whatever the reason behind it but a cute little life has gone now for no reason but just because of Cyberstalking. The cyber harassment is more real than virtual. What is more worrying about the unfortunate incident is that such crimes are being committed by youngsters in India, not necessarily restricted to metro cities.
This Cyber Harassment has other name as Cyberbullying which is when a child or a preteen or a teen is targeted by another child of same age group or category by threatening, harassing, humiliating, embarrassing using Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. Once adults become involved, its plain and simple cyber harassment or cyberstalking.
What are all the Online activities that is involved in Cyberstalking?
- Cyberbullying in chat rooms, online sites
- Spreading nasty rumours on Social Networking Sites like Facebook, Orkut or MySpace
- Tracking the Online activities of the victim
- Sending abusive emails/messages
- Sending such e-mails to their friends or relatives
- Giving them torture or the sense of irritation and fear
Teens are Most targeted and affected by Cyberstalking
Why is that teens are always getting caught in Cyber crimes? Teenagers are getting attracted towards laptops, gadgets and Internet. For immature teens, adventures are exciting and its just a fun for them. This “technology intoxication” encourages them to get involved in mistakes which most of them don’t realize until it tangles them in serious problems.
Teenagers generally are not aware of the impacts of the words that they use to chat or message. They are not even aware of the consequences of certain things they do online. At times, they post their personal information online including address and even their parents’ credit card details, unaware of the causes that online criminals could misuse them.
Cyberstalking in Teens
The major psychological root cause of Cyberstalking among teenagers are due to failed friendships, jealousy and isolated circumstances which creates a frustrating space between their expected world and the reality. Internet fills the space which gives them complete freedom to go anywhere online that keeps them happy. This is the space where they can take out the jealousy, anger and vengeance with no physical efforts involved. There is an example of a 15-year-old school girl who created a Facebook account on her classmate’s name to abuse her because she had lost to her in a competition.
The senior vice president of the Cyber Society of India, says, “Most cyber crimes relate to Cyberstalking, data theft or e-publishing of obscene picture online (Section 65, 66 and 67 of IT Act). More than friends, the parents and teachers are to blame. Adults are too lenient with children and too lax on supervision (monitoring websites surfed etc).”
We can’t blame anyone in this cyber dominated world as one cannot stay away or isolate themselves from Internet. The cyberculture must be followed and taught to adults and teens properly to keep themselves safe and secure online.
Be cautious when you share information or exchange e-mails. Never respond to unknown e-mails with any information that could have been requested to you. Do not respond to strangers and do not open any mails from unknown senders or any pornographic material.
Be sure that you read guidelines given by the social networking sites for your safety and terms & conditions pertaining to your personal information.
Never share your IDs or passwords online, just your banking IDs but your e-mail IDs and passwords too.
How to Know whether your child is being cyberstalked?
If you restrict your child to go online citing the reason of cyberstalking, you will be the last person to know about them being stalked already, you are a parent though. Do not lay a straight forward barrier restricting their online freedom which will lead them to find other ways. Instead, as parent you must get to know their motives and moves online.
See if they are minimizing the window when you pass by. Is you teenager spend lot of time on the net? especially during night hours? Is he or she receiving calls from unknown numbers? Is there any sudden change in the sleeping hours or has sleeping problems unusually? As as parent all these have to be noted to know whether if you child is being stalked.
If your teenage child is being cyberstalked, do the following:
- Do not make him or her to feel guilty.
- Try to contact the cyberstalker (culprit) and threaten him or her with legal actions. Still if the nuisance continues, stop contacting the person.
- Make a copy of e-mails and or messages for your evidence. Soft or hard copy.
- Do reach out your local police.
- Contact the Cyber Crime Investigation cell.
- After making your child, close his or her online account and if necessary open a new account with a different ID.
Cyberstalking can lead your child’s future to an harmful end if your teenager is not being monitored systematically. Managing your child’s online schedule and systems seems to be complicated but that is not the fact. As a parent if you are aware of the risks much in advance before even your child goes close to Online world, you can have things in control teaching your kid the whole advantages of Internet.
If you are a parent, do others the favour of sharing these information about what is cyberstalking and instructions to overcome by learning the cyberculture.