Keeping Kids Safe from Cyberstalkers
Jim Frizzell of Greenville, Wisconsin, was surprised to find that his 14-year-old daughter had been receiving harassing e-mail messages from a fellow student earlier this year. In one message, the boy even threatened to break into the Frizzells' home. Unfortunately, this new breed of Internet-based stalking, called "cyberstalking," isn't at all uncommon.
Even more disturbing is that the most likely perpetrators of kid-targeted cyberstalking are not adults, but other kids. Over the last two years, Wired Safety, an organization that assists victims of cyber-crimes, has seen a 50 percent increase in kids under the age of 16 who send harassing e-mails to other kids, create defaming Web sites, and behave in other ways that characterize cyberstalking. "Even if it starts out as 'harmless' fun, it often turns into malicious behavior," says Parry Aftab, Wired Safety's executive director and a lawyer specializing in online issues.
With the help of Wired Safety and school administrators, Frizzell was able to block the boy's e-mails to his daughter and monitor the boy's offline interaction with her. To prevent such an experience from happening to your kids, Aftab recommends these tips:
- Teach kids not to respond to heated e-mail exchanges.
- Periodically plug kids' names into a search engine
to make sure no hurtful Web pages have been set up.
- Forward troubling messages to your Internet service provider and ask it to block future e-mails.
- Contact law enforcement if the cyberstalker knows your child's address or other personal characteristics.