Do your children frequent forums and chat rooms on the internet? Do they like to use social media sites and play online games? If so, then they constantly come into contact with people from all over the world on a daily basis. While most of these people can be quite nice and friendly, sometimes they can be a bit too friendly. Sometimes, even the seemingly friendliest of people can quickly turn into cyber stalkers , unbeknownst to you or your kids. However, there are ways of discovering whether or not your children have become victims of stalking online, and there are things that you can do to prevent or stop it altogether. In this guide on cyber stalkers, we will provide helpful tips in order to help you maintain your children’s personal cyber safety whenever they go online.
Cyber Stalkers Tip 1
How do you know if your Kids Are targeted by cyber stalkers?
If you suspect that your children are victims of online stalking, but you aren’t certain, there are a few telltale signs to look for. One of the main ways that cyber stalkers gather their information about people is by making frequent contact with their victims. It’s one thing to have the occasional friendly email or instant message on a social media site or online game, but when this occurs multiple times a day, it may be a sign that your children have become victims of cyber-stalking.
In general, messages can be about any type of content. There is not necessarily one specific piece of content to look for over another. Stalkers will gather information about your children by quickly learning their likes and dislikes through email or instant messages. Then, they will repeatedly send messages to them, asking about these subjects or talking about something your child and the stalker had discussed previously. If you notice that your child seems to be receiving an unusually high amount of messages from the same person in given amount of time, it may be time to start questioning your child’s cyber safety. If you notice that your child has also been receiving a lot of messages that pertain to where they live, the various other websites they visit, or any content that is highly personal in nature, you may want to start assuming they have a cyber-stalker.
Cyber Stalkers Tip 2
How personal is Too Personal?
It is perfectly normal for some people online to ask personal information of you, so you shouldn’t immediately jump to conclusions when your children are asked to answer these questions. However, some of the key traits that tell you they are cyber-stalking victims may be as follows:
- Someone online starts saying things about your child that you know that your child did not tell them. Usually, this is a revealing of highly personal information about your kid, like where he or she goes to school, where they live, concerts or events they may have attended, which real-world friends they have recently spent time with, and more.
- If someone on the Internet mentions that they have seen your child’s photo somewhere (like a picture of them at school) and if this was a photo that you or your child did not provide to the person online, then this is a pretty good indicator that your child is being watched by a cyber-predator.
- Cyber stalkers who are serious enough about what they do may even know exactly when your children are online. They may send messages to your child saying, “I know you were online at this time, because I saw you sent a bunch of messages to these users, but you didn’t reply to me.” They might even have memorized the schedule of your family’s daily routine and so they know the times that your child will most likely access the internet.
If any of these things are happening to your child, it may be time to contact the proper authorities. If this hasn’t happened to your family yet and you would like to keep it that way, there are a few different things you can do to maintain your family’s cyber safety.
Cyber Stalkers Tip 3
What to Do if you Suspect Cyber Stalkers are targeting you
If you suspect that your child is a victim of stalking online, then there are a few measures that you will need to take in order to keep him or her safe. First, it is important that you talk directly with your child and find out exactly what is going on, especially if they are old enough to understand things said on the Internet, and if they are comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences with you. Of course, talking is just the first step. There are many other things you can do as well to protect your child from his or her suspected stalker:
- Use your e-mail provider’s parental controls or filtering system to block all incoming emails from the stalker’s e-mail address. In chat rooms and social networking sites that allow you to block contact from certain people, type in the stalker’s name and block them. In this way, they won’t be able to harass your child anymore, which should keep your child relatively safe.
- Contact your current Internet Service Provider right away and explain to them the details of the situation. Ask them for a new username and password for your account, if you are unable to make one yourself. If you cannot get a new username and password for your account, delete your current account and make a new one.
- Save all the correspondence that has gone back and forth between your child and the stalker. Print out copies of any email conversations that occurred between them, take screenshots of chat room and social networking entries, etc. These can be used as evidence in court later on if you need them.
- Let the stalker know that you (or your child) no longer wish to speak with him or her. If he or she persists in harassing your child, involve your local police department right away. This is the best way to maintain cyber safety in your household.
Ways to Prevent Cyber Stalkers
Even if your family hasn’t yet been victimized by cyber-stalking, it is best to take preventative measures against all potential predators now. You never know when the day will come when your child will receive a threatening or inappropriate e-mail. To keep your family as safe as possible, you need to ensure that your entire computer is well-protected against any cyber intrusions.
It may seem like cyber-stalking could never happen to your family, but you should never take that viewpoint. It is always important to think about what kind of world we live in, and what very real dangers could be lurking at our back door every day. If you want to protect your family from cyber criminals, here are some helpful tips for you:
Only Access Safe Websites
Compile a list of websites that are guaranteed to be safe. These are generally sites that you trust and know won’t cause any harm to befall people in your family who may visit said websites. Then, only go to these websites, and nowhere else online, since you know that you can trust these particular sites.
Keep your Personal Information Private
Do not share personal information about yourself with strangers on the Internet. Encourage your children to take the same mindset. Make sure that they never reveal information about where they live, who their friends are, what you do for work, etc. By safeguarding all this information, you can greatly increase your family’s cyber safety.
Make a Secure, Neutral Screen Name
Always choose a screen name or pseudonym when going online. Never use your real name as your screen name on websites. Never use a nickname that you might have for yourself either, because these are easy to track and find more information about. Always encourage your children to choose neutral names that really don’t reveal too much about their personal lives. For instance, if they like cats, they could call themselves “catlover777” or if they like cherry pie, they could call themselves, “cherrypie2801.” Anything neutral and not entirely specific is generally a good screen name. Also, it is never a good idea to use suggestive names, as this is simply just an invitation to the cyber predators that lurk online.
Always Meet in Public, if you must Meet at All
You and your family should exercise extreme caution when meeting someone in the real world whom you have previously only known online. A lot of dangerous things can happen in such a situation, so it is better to meet in a public setting. In fact, you should avoid meeting said person at all costs, but if it cannot be avoided, then you should always try meeting somewhere with high security, like a police station. This way, if something does happen, you can rest assured that safety is just a few feet away. Even better, if the person refuses to meet where you suggest, then you know that it is not legit, and you can avoid the encounter altogether.
Report All Negative Encounters Right Away
If you or your child has a less-than-pleasant experience online, they may have just become the next target of a cyber-stalker. You should encourage your children to log off (without finishing the conversation) immediately if someone online says or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable. You also should then report the incident to both your Internet Service Provider and the chat room/forum/message board moderator for the website that you are using. If no such person can be contacted, it wouldn’t hurt to contact the authorities right away.
Cyber-Stalking Victims Emergency Contact Information
If you suspect that you, your child, or any other members of your family have become victims of cyber-stalking, you need to contact the proper authorities right away. You should start with your local police department and then move up the ranks. Get all the authorities involved that you can. This way, you have many people fighting on your side to track down your stalker and put him or her behind bars for many years. If you need even more help with the situation, contact cyberangels.org, as they have ways in which they can help you as well. If a stalker has done some physical or emotional damage to your family, contact the police and a reputable counselor whom you trust right away.
Cyber stalkers are a very real and potentially dangerous situation. There are numerous people stalked each year on the Internet, and the consequences can often be quite deadly. Fortunately, there are numerous things that you can do to keep you and your family members safe online. Always safeguard all of your personal information, and make sure that you know which websites are being accessed from your home computer. If your children or family members enter any data into forms, make sure that the website that contains the form is a secure site, and always know who is requesting the information and for what purpose. Most importantly of all, always take every suspected incidence of cyber-stalking seriously, and report any suspicious activity to the proper authorities right away. Even if the situation turns out to be nothing more than a simple misunderstanding, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry.