In Cyber Safety, The Digital World

Understanding Internet Terrorism Today

internet terrorism

Most people associate terrorism and the Internet as attacks on computers and systems, whether to disrupt government, business, or personal computers in order to steal information, disable or alter usage, or to plant viruses. There is another association with Internet terrorism, to cause fear or harass other people or business. In other words: online bullying. Businesses have been shut down because someone launched a campaign online that maligns the business or its owners. Internet terrorism also induces fear and anxiety in people, also referred to as cyberbullying, which happens usually on social networks, online gaming sites, and chat rooms or through mobile phones (texting). It happens day and night and follows the victim everywhere they have access to the Internet or a phone signal, making them feel there is nowhere safe from the attacks.

What Is Internet Terrorism?

Terror on the Internet can be from someone known or someone using a false identity, making Internet terrorism easier to do without getting caught. The perpetrators spread rumors or make up stories about the victim, post pictures or videos (real or altered), inspire others to bully, or even outright threaten physical harm to the other person, their family members or pets. They might make demands of the victim for explicit photographs, or to do some dare with the enticement that it will stop, or set up accounts pretending to be the victim just to cause problems for them. This often happens to children.

Internet Bullying Statistics

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,’ used to be what kids were told to tell bullies who verbally taunted them. These days that has been proven to be untrue. Words do hurt. Harsh words can destroy someone’s self-esteem to a point that they either contemplate or attempt suicide. They withdraw from friends and social activities they had once enjoyed. With the rise of social media and availability of cellular devices (phones, tablet computers, etc.) it is easier than ever for someone to be bullied without even being face to face with their abuser. Text messages can be mass-mailed, with and without photographs. Photographs and videos are posted online for all to see, often without the subject even knowing they were taken.

Worldwide youths were found to frequent Facebook (the most usage), Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Ask.fm, Tumblr, and a small percentage used MySpace. Bullying was experienced across all different venues.

A survey conducted by Slater and Gordon, an international law firm in Australia, and the Anti-Bullying Alliance found that over half of children and youth in the UK now believe bullying on the Internet is just a part of life. It also found that parents (40%) do not know how to respond to the threat or how to set up protections on computers and cell phones for their children.

According to nspcc.org.uk, operators of ChildLine, a counseling service for children and adolescents, there has been an 87 percent increase in reports of online bullying in 2012 and 2013. They report that online bullying affects a higher age group, children aged 12-18. They were contacted by 4,500 young people regarding advice on how to deal with cyberbullying. Children are afraid to report the incidents of Internet terrorism because they fear it will make the problem worse, or nothing will be done.

Ditch the Label ran a worldwide survey taken from a sample of 10,800 young people aged 13 to 22 from the UK, USA, Australia, and a small number from other countries, and also from their partnership with Habbo Hotel, a community for teens, as well as from their own online support center which has 30,000 hits weekly. They found that seven out of ten teens are victims of Internet terrorism, 37 percent on a highly frequent basis, 20 percent experience severe bullying on a daily basis. They found that on the social networking site Facebook, teens were twice as likely to be bullied, followed by Twitter and then Ask.FM. This affected the self-esteem and social lives of 69 percent of the participants. They also found that males and females are equally likely to be victims of online terrorism.

It might surprise parents to know that in one poll, thirty percent of teens admitted to bullying classmates and peers, but fifty-seven percent of the time, when an adult intervened, bullying stopped in a matter of seconds. Parents matter.

Advice for Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers

Parents often feel the need to give their children their privacy or their space to show they trust them to be responsible. While this is noble, with the prevalence of cyberbullying it is better to err on the side of caution.

  • Maintain current passwords to your child’s social networking sites, chatrooms, email, texting, etc. You may never feel the need to use them, but if your child begins to change their personality and it worries you, check those sites to see if they are being bullied or threatened. They may not want to tell parents about the bullying for fear it will get worse.
  • Talk to your child about what is bothering them and intervene if necessary. A parent can sometimes get more results, especially if the child is younger, than the child if the bully is from their school, or they need help contacting the right authorities (such as site administrators, the telephone carrier, or police.)
  • Offer support and suggestions to your child on handling the bullying. Once upon a time, if a child responded to a bully by giving as good as they got, in some cases with a physical altercation, the bullying stopped. This is not the case with cyberbullying. They gain confidence when the victim replies with similar remarks or threats online.
  • Check the social networking sites they frequent to make sure someone hasn’t created an account assuming the child’s identity to create problems for your child. Also make sure it isn’t someone who actually has the same name. You’ll be able to tell by their biographical answers such as school and neighborhood or friends. Their friends may not realize it isn’t actually them either.

What a Victim Can Do

  • Ask your parents for help. They can get things done that you may not be able to as a minor.
  • Do not engage with or respond to the bully.
  • Make one request and keep it simple with no use of capital letters or swear words. “Do not contact me again,” and keep a record of when you made the request.
  • If the bully persists, print out their messages and annotate, if necessary, the dates, whether it is on a site such as Facebook or Twitter, or a text or instant message.
  • If they make a threat to physically harm you, your family, or pets, or damage property, contact the police immediately, or have your parents file a report. The police have to check on the threat and it sends a message to the other person that the behavior will not be tolerated. Check out our Cheat Sheet for Reporting Cyber Bullying!
  • Block the person from contacting you on the social network sites, usually in the privacy settings. Also block their number from calling yours. Be aware that they can call or text from a different device. Let unfamiliar or blocked numbers go to voicemail and do not erase any messages or texts. You may have to play them or show them to the police if necessary. Facebook has a zero tolerance policy regarding cyberbullying. If you report them to Facebook they will be blocked from using the site.
  • If you can get their IP address from emails and text, contact their provider with the information and let them know what is going on. They can take steps to block them for you. You may have to contact your own carrier to get the IP address.

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