Online Harassment, Cyberbullying, and Cyberstalking
Online harassment, bullying, or stalking can be quite intimidating to a child or an adult. Threats to you, or to members of your family, can include cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment. In the United States, all 50 states have a harassment statute, with varying degrees of strength. In other countries, the statutes and existence of laws may vary so it is important to always arm yourself with what you can do to protect yourself.
Cyberbullying: When minors are harassed online, it’s called “cyberbullying.” WiredSafety Group's Stopcyberbullying.org recommends the “Stop, Block, and Tell” approach for children who have been harassed by cyberbullies. Have your child Stop correspondence, Block the offender from your communication lists, and Tell a trustworthy adult.Back to top
When adults are harassed online, it’s called “cyberharassment” or “cyberstalking.” If you are being victimized in this way, we recommend these guidelines from experts in the field:
- Stop correspondence. Do not respond, threaten, or argue with them.
- Block the offender from all communications.
- Contact the harasser's Internet Service Provider (ISP) and file a complaint. To find the sender's ISP, choose to display full headers in your email application. You'll find a "Received:" line in the email message that contains an eight- to 12-digit number separated by periods. You can run a "Who Is" search on this number to find the sender's ISP. Geektools provides such a utility.
- Check your system for potentially unwanted programs if you feel the harasser may have installed them on your system. For a free scan of your machine, use our McAfee Cybercrime Scanner.
- Consider changing all online accounts, including passwords for those accounts, once you are certain your machine is “clean.”
- Learn more at the Stalking Resource Center hosted by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Thanks to the growth in texting, it has become another avenue for sending sexually explicit material between communicants. While this can be a private matter between two consenting adults, sexting involving minors is another issue. If you are a parent, you should be aware if your child is using texting in this way and the fact that in some countries the act of sexting can be against anti-child pornography laws. In some cases, teenagers have been charged with distribution when sending these photos, and those who receive them have been charged with possession. Speak to your child honestly about the issues — advise them about the potential illegality and the fact that minors have been charged. If you are concerned that your child may be engaging in this activity, check your child’s cellphone for sexually explicit images and take action accordingly to prevent legal action.Back to top
Other recommendations from Wired Safety:
- Some cybercommunications can be easily misunderstood. They may not have meant to hurt you. Or someone else might have been using their account to get them into trouble with you or others. If the person doing this confesses in person and is not a risk, use it as an opportunity to discuss it.
- Avoid provocative screen names
- Lurk before you post to get a sense of the tone of the site or forum. Be cautious before getting into heated or non-PC discussions. They can incite arguments.
- ThinkB4uClick. Proofread your communications before sending them. Include a “☺” or a “jk” (just kidding) to help clarify tone. Make sure you send it to the right person. What is acceptable to a close friend may scare a stranger who has a similar screen name as the intended recipient.
- Remove your former spouse or other from your Facebook or other social media group, and think about removing their friends too.
- Be careful about which people you friend.
- Use a disposable free email account when cyberdating or communicating with strangers online. If it feels uncomfortable at any point, you can close it without it affecting your life.
- Don’t post or send pictures that you would not want parents, professors, prospective employers, the police, or predators to see. Sexing and sexting are not limited to kids.
- Think secure! Always use a good security suite, scan your device for spyware, and use only trusted websites.
Additional resources to learn more about these topics:Back to top