With the advent of social media, and the never ending updates in our technology, we are connected more than ever before. Teens are updating their Facebook status or sending Twitter tweets at a rapid pace, and mommy blogs are popping up left and right. Everyone is finding a voice on the Internet and plugging in through social networking has skyrocketed. The internet and the wide availability of smart phones has brought us together in ways that were previously unthinkable, but there is a danger to this level of interconnectedness. More and more people, particularly teens and young people, are becoming victims of cyberbullying.
A New Way to Pain
Cyberbullying is using the internet, cell phones or other devices to post pictures, text, videos or other information intended to hurt or embarrass another person. According to the National Crime Prevention Association, cyberbullying affects almost half of all American teens. Although many feel cyberbullying is not a big deal, the consequences can be severe. As evidenced by the rash of suicides—particularly by teens—in the last few years, cyberbullying can have a devastating affect on the victim and their family.
Stealing a Growing Identity
However, there is another side to this coin. Identity theft is another way internet users can harass and embarrass others. Stealing an identity and making fraudulent charges to someone’s account, or hacking into a social media account and posting things the user would not have posted is a risk many users take.
Never post identifying information—social security numbers, bank account numbers, mailing addresses or passwords—online anywhere, and be wary of people or companies who require suspicious information. There are many services that can provide guidance on staying safe and being cyber-smart, monitor information across a variety of networks, can watch bank accounts for suspicious activity, and will alert users to any suspicious activity in any of these areas. Keeping your personal information is key in this interconnected web world we live in.
Be careful about posting your location online. Many social media sites now offer the option to “tag” yourself and others in specific locations. Although this is a fun tool, be aware of the privacy settings that are set up, and be careful about where you tag yourself and others. Tagging friends at the water park or the movies may be fine, but an identity thief can use this information to track movements and discover more information that was originally posted.
How to React
There are some simple ways to prevent cyberbullying. If the aggressor is just one person, simply blocking them from communicating may be enough. Sites like Facebook and other social networking sites make it fairly simple to prevent specific people from communicating via that site. Most mobile service providers also have a system to block numbers, so aggressive texts and phone calls can be blocked.
Deleting messages without reading them, and not rising to the bait of responding to cyberbullying can also help stop the problem. Reporting any incidence of cyberbullying to an adult or school administrator can also help prevent and deter cyberbullies.