The Internet is an amazing thing that allows us to search for new information and keep in contact with friends and family. However, the Internet also has a dark side. It allows for unwanted people to access private information and it provides direct means in which they can contact you. These are examples of cyberstalking. Cyberstalking, or cyber-harassment, is employing electronic communications tools to stalk a person on the web. This includes harassment, humiliating, exerting financial control, isolating, and instilling fear into the victim. Cyberstalking is a growing issue that is vastly underreported even though it can have disastrous effects on its victims.

Why is Cyberstalking a Growing Problem?

Nowadays, our world revolves around electronics and social media. Everywhere we go, we always have access to the Internet and social media through cell phones, tablets, and other smart devices. Furthermore, we post everything from our vacations, friends, family, addresses, business location, phone number, and email on social media. This makes it simple for a seasoned online user to locate enough of a victim’s individual information. It is also quite easy to glean info about the victim’s geographical area, the places you like to go to in your region and the people that you care about from posts and pictures. Due to this ease, the Internet is frequently the very first place a stalker goes to gain contact with victims.

One of the major reasons why perpetrators resort to online methods is because of the instant gratification. The Internet allows the perpetrator easy access to information, and it makes it exceptionally harder for them to be caught by law enforcement. Online methods also allow the perpetrator to have access to victims regardless of their geographical distance. This allows them to threaten anyone from anywhere in the world.

Types of Cyberstalking

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a problem that continues to grow with our obsessive use of technology. It is any behavior that occurs online that instills fear and distress to the point that an individual fears for their safety. Through this, the victim may feel distressed and like their right to privacy has been violated. Some common examples include using someone’s private information to instill fear in the victim, harassing a victim with hundreds of messages a day to inform them that they are being watched, or using their social media to track their whereabouts.

Catfishing

Catfishing

Left: singer/ dancer “Megan Faccio”; Right: Angela Wesselman-Pierce, who created the fake profile from Raquelita96 via Wikimedia

Catfishing occurs when someone poses as another person online. Often, these fake accounts use fake names, photos, and social media links. Additionally, some perpetrators will copy a profile of another individual in order to verify their identity. Catfishers commonly use these accounts to pose as fake love interests or as means to contact other online users to send spam. In more malicious circumstances, they may use the accounts to cyberbully another person.

Statistics

  • Most victims are 18-29 years old
  • 60% of all cyberstalking victims are female
  • Most victims are caucasian
  • Most victims are single
  • 56% of cyberstalkers are male
  • Most cyberstalking instances begin on Facebook or email
  • 70% of cyberstalking attack consist of a victim and cyberstalkers that live in different states
  • 50% of perpetrators had past romantic relationships with the victim
  • 15% of perpetrators are the victim’s online acquaintance

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References: https://cyberbullying.org/cyberstalkinghttps://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-how-to-how-to-protect-yourself-from-cyberstalkers.htmlhttp://www.mass.gov/ago/public-safety/cyber-crime-and-internet-safety/cyber-crimes/cyber-stalking.html

Pictures: Featured Image: https://pixabay.com/en/anonymous-hacktivist-hacker-2755365/https://pixabay.com/en/cyber-security-hacker-online-3410923/https://www.flickr.com/photos/51234626@N02/4726453297/https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/File:Catfish_example.jpg

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