Cyberstalking: Portrait of a Facebook Stalker
Cyberstalkers are not always sexual predators and do not all look like criminals. In fact, in person- they may appear to be just like you and I, but make no mistake: cyberstalkers are driven by obsession, jealousy, manipulation, power, and a slew of other harmful characteristics.
If you’re a member of Facebook, you’ve probably heard the term “Facebook stalking.” It’s a phrase often used in jest and refers to checking another member’s profile to read their wall and status updates, find out who they are friends with, view their personal photographs, retrieve school and employer information, and more. We often hear about individuals “Facebook stalking” their ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, but as innocent as it may seem- electronic harassment can pose some seriously dangerous consequences if not addressed early.
Facebook stalking has become an alarming, growing trend among teenagers. Teenage harassers post messages on their victim’s walls, comment on their photographs, and continually attempt to make contact to the point of obsession. They may even reach out to the victim’s online friends to learn more details about the victim’s life, like who they are dating and where they are located at any given time. This behavior is especially prevalent among teens that were previously romantically involved. Cyberstalking can easily develop into face-to-face stalking, so parents need to be on the lookout for warning signs.
Here are some tips to protect you or your child from becoming a victim of Facebook stalking:
1. Avoid sharing passwords. One way teens prove their commitment to each other is by sharing password information with one another, and this is never a good idea. Passwords should be unique and at least 6 characters long. They should also be modified on a regular basis.
2. Check your privacy settings. Protect yourself by keeping your profile and wall private.
3. Do not accept friend requests from anybody you don’t know. Cyberstalkers can easily create fake profiles. If you do recognize the name, be sure to check with that friend or family member offline to confirm that they own an account before accepting the request.
4. Review your friend list on a monthly basis. Check to make sure you recognize everyone you are currently associated with. If you see any unfamiliar accounts, remove them as friends.
5. Avoid oversharing. Do not post your contact information, school name, birth date or the names of family members on your profile. The less information you put out there, the better. Ask your friends and family members to avoid posting personal information about you as well.
6. Limit the amount of personal photographs you post. Cyberstalkers prey on victims who post personal photos. Photographs that reveal private information (like the name of your school or hometown) put you at greater risk.
7. Change your chat options. You can block friends from chatting with you by modifying your chat settings. Visit Facebook’s Help Centre for more information.
Facebook stalking is a form of cyberstalking, or electronic harassment. Victims are protected by both state and federal laws. If you or your child is a victim of cyberstalking, contact the National Center for Victims of Crime or call their hotline at 1.800.FYI.CALL.
Tagged as: cyber laws, cyber stalking, Facebook Safety, friends, information sharing, Internet Safety, Online Hackers, parenting, Privacy Online, Social Networking Safety, teens online health