When you use the Internet the last thing that you are probably thinking about is online stalking or harassment, but unfortunately in today’s world online stalking and harassment is something that everybody needs to take seriously. Most likely everybody is familiar with the term stalking, but what many people don’t realize is that stalking doesn’t have to take place in person; there are many ways that a person can be stalked. And one of the ways that people can be stalked and harassed is online or what is also called cyberstalking.
When it comes to the Internet many of us feel that we are safe because we are sitting behind a computer and nobody can see us, but this is not true. If you take a minute to think about it you will see that people who want to hurt others or cause trouble are thinking the same thing. They think that because nobody knows who they are, that they can’t get in trouble for harassing or abusing others over the Internet, which leads us to cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is not strictly related to the Internet; in actuality cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk someone. Cyberstalking is basically using the Internet or other electronic means to harass or threaten another person repeatedly, which means that the cyberstalker does it on a regular basis and won’t stop.
Most often cyberstalkers find their victims in some type of online forum, such as chat rooms, bulletin boards, online groups, MySpace, etc. Once the cyberstalker finds their victim there are numerous things that they can do to them, but the key to cyberstalking is that the behavior is relentless. Cyberstalkers, like physical stalkers, will harass and abuse their victims because they enjoy scaring and harassing other people. But something to keep in mind is that cyberstalking, like stalking, is not always done by someone you know; the person stalking you can be a complete stranger that has suddenly fixed on you for some reason.
One of the scariest things about cyberstalking is that the victim might not even realize that they are being stalked. If you are part of an online group or have participated in chat rooms you have probably voiced your opinion in chatting or by writing blogs and you have probably hurt somebody’s feelings because of your views. Those people may have responded to your blogs or made a comment in the chat room, which would be the natural thing to do, but what you need to watch out for is people who are intentionally trying to insult you or people who are threatening you in their responses. But this doesn’t mean that everybody who gets mad and insults you is a cyberstalker. What you need to watch for is the repetitive actions of the person. If the person is constantly responding to you in a mean or threatening way, you probably have a cyberstalker on your hands.
Cyberstalkers don’t just follow you into chat rooms or make mean and threatening comments; cyberstalkers also send unwanted email or computer viruses to their victims as well. A scary thing about cyberstalking is that it usually gets worse over time; cyberstalkers are constantly looking for a reaction from the people that they are stalking, so they will create new things to do to their victims. Some cyberstalkers will even create fake blogs that include pornographic pictures of their victims, just so that they can get a reaction from the victim.
You might be asking yourself how cyberstalkers can send you unwanted emails or repeated instant messages if they just picked you at random from a chat room or a message board; the answer to that is actually rather easy. Cyberstalkers become obsessed with their victims and will do research on the victim to find out as much as they can, including tracing the victim’s IP address so that they can find out where the person works or lives. By finding out as much personal information as possible the cyberstalkers are also able to stalk the person physically.
Just keep in mind that no matter where the stalking is taking place it is still a terrifying experience for the victims. Hopefully these hints will give you the tools to avoid situations in which stalking or harassment could flourish.