Cyberstalking dangers


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The real dangers in cyberspace - what parents & children should know...

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Cyberstalking dangers

  1. 1. tech talk The ghost that stalks cyberspace BY SHAIL RAGHUVANSHII n 2006, Megan Meier, an insecure Though the Drews were not jailed, the TEENS: A VULNERABLE LOT fourteen-year-old US schoolgirl, incident reveals how cyber harassment How do teens get involved in cyber accepted a friend request on is more real than virtual. What is crimes? Na Vijayashankar, a cyberMySpace from a sixteen-year-old more worrying about the unfortunate crime expert and author of Cyber Lawshandsome stranger named Josh Evans. incident is that such crimes are being for Every Netizen in India … ITA-She exchanged messages with her committed by youngsters in India, not 2000 and Beyond, says “Teens are‘cutest boyfriend’ who, when she asked necessarily restricted to metro cities, attracted to laptops and internet. Beingfor his phone number, claimed he with many cases eluding the public eye. immature, adventure excites themdidn’t have one. and sounds like ‘fun’ to them. This CYBER HARASSMENT ‘technology intoxication’ encouragesAfter a month of online flirtation (her, the world’s them to commit mistakes.”parents supervised the correspondence), largest online safety group, definesthings took an ugly turn when Josh cyberbullying: “Cyberbullying is when Teenagers chat or message, forgettingposted online: “I don’t know if I want a child, preteen or teen is tormented, that words can hurt in a virtual world,to be friends with you anymore because threatened, harassed, humiliated, too. Sometimes, they post theirI’ve heard that you are not very nice embarrassed or otherwise targeted by personal informations online liketo your friends.” Megan’s world fell another child, preteen or teen using address, parents’ credit card numbersapart as hate messages flooded her, the Internet, interactive and digital and phone numbers, unaware that suchcalling her ‘fat’ and a ‘slut’. Josh’s final technologies or mobile phones. It has to details can be misused bymessage that ‘the world would be a have a minor on both sides, or at least online criminals.better place’ without her was the last have been instigated by a minor againststraw. Believing she had been rejected another minor. Once adults become Cyberstalking among teenagers areby Josh and humiliated by friends, involved, it is plain and simple cyber- rooted in failed friendships, jealousy,Megan committed suicide. Josh Evans harassment or cyberstalking.” the need to find acceptance in a ‘cool’vanished forever. group or the need to feel powerful CYBERSTALKING INVOLVES: without having to physically assaultThat’s not the end. Six weeks later • cyberbullying in chat rooms, online others. Take the example of theMegan’s parents discovered that ‘Josh sites 15-year-old Mumbai schoolgirl whoEvans’ was an online persona created • spreading nasty rumours on websites created a Facebook page against herby their neighbour Lori Drew. Megan like Orkut, MySpace and Facebook classmate and abused her on it. Thisand Lori’s daughter had quarrelled and • tracking online activities of the victim was because she had lost to thatLori wanted to check if Megan was • sending abusive emails/messages classmate in a competition.saying nasty things about her daughter. • sending such mails to victim’s friendsLori’s daughter and a friend knew or relatives V Rajendran, senior vice president ofabout the ‘joke’ and participated in • creating a sense of irritation and fear the Cyber Society of India, says,“Mostharassing Megan. in the victim cyber crimes relate to cyberstalking,40 Parent Circle / March 2012
  2. 2. data theft or e-publishing of obscene IF YOUR cHILD IS BEINGpictures online (Sections 65, 66 and cYBERSTALKED67 of IT Act). More than friends, the Dr Mohana Narayanan, aparents and teachers are to blame. psychiatrist in Chennai, saysAdults are too lenient with children the best way to help a victim ofand too lax on supervision (monitoring cyberstalking is to “communicatewebsites surfed etc).” with the child. Make your children feel that they will be taken careCYBERcULTURE of and not just be taken to task.It is a ‘User beware’ maxim in the Build their confidence.”cyberworld. Victims of cyberstalking arechildren and adults who are not aware If your teenager is beingof this. Therefore, cyberculture would stalked online, then:include using safety tips like filtering • do not make your child feelemails and locking private information; guilty.knowledge of the minimum age to join • contact the culprit and threatensites like Orkut/Facebook. him/her with police/legal action. If the harassment continues, do notBe aware of the dangers of sharing contact the person again.information/emotions with online • keep the messages and emails orstrangers and do not respond take printouts as unknown senders of spam/ • contact your local police.pornographic material. True identities • contact the Cyber Crimecan be masked through fake profiles Investigation IDs and passwords should not be • close your child’s onlineshared. Users should read the policy account. Create a new account, ifguidelines of networking sites. necessary, with a different name.IS YOUR TEENAGER BEING Dr S Mohan Raj, a psychiatrist inSTALKED ONLINE? Chennai, warns youngsters againstOften, you as a parent may be the ‘making friends with the friend of a • Talking to your children’s teachers,last person to know that your child friend’ online. “Children should be counsellor or friends. Try tracing thisis a victim of cyberstalking. Despite friends with people they know in real behaviour to incidents that may havethe misery, teenagers wish to stay life. This way, the risk is reduced,” occurred at home or school.connected with their friends and are he advises. • Provide ample warning by goingafraid that parents may deny them online and find out cases wheretheir online privileges if they reveal that IF YOUR cHILD IS THE children indulging in cybercrimes havethey are being cyberstalked. Without cYBERSTALKER been arrested. A 10th Standard studentappearing to be invasive, find out When this happens, parents usually from Ahmedabad was caught forwhether your child stays aloof or feels blame the society or themselves for not hacking an online shopping websiteunnecessarily annoyed. having instilled the right values in and diverting money to his account. He their children. was arrested, sent to a juvenile cell andAre the children always online, released later.especially at night? Do they minimize YOU cAN HELp BY • Taking your teen to a therapist.screens when family members pass • Explaining to children that harmlessby? Is your child making calls to or joking and bullying are two separate Dr Mohan Raj says teenagers withreceiving calls from unknown numbers? things. Explain to them the adverse problems in handling anger mayIs your child suddenly facing sleeping effects of their actions on others. If the indulge in cyberstalking. He adds,or concentration difficulties? If ‘yes’, do behaviour continues, deprive them of “Negative behaviour will not disappearinvestigate the cause. online privileges. quickly. Always be alert.” 8 41
  3. 3. tech talk CYBERSTALKING AND THE LAW IN INDIA Juvenile cyberstalking remains under-reported in India except in a few cases where children have created nasty profiles or hacked into other accounts. Debarati Halder, an advocate and MD of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling, rues the fact that there are no provisions in the Indian Penal Code which can be called as ‘stalking law’. What is the punishment for juvenile cyberstalking in India? 1 Punishments can be either a pecuniary fine and/or jail term depending on the nature of the harm. If the child perpetrator is about 16-18 years of age and is proven to be guilty of creating child pornography or general pornography or of sending obscene messages, then as per Section 67 (including 67, 67A&B that deal with obscenity, pornography and child pornography) of the Information Technology Act, the child and his parents are taken to court. The child undergoes punishment as per the IT Act and IPC, compatible with juvenile justice laws. Precautions in the cyberworld If the case is booked and goes to the prosecution stage, the case goes to juvenile courts where strict privacy is followed regarding the personal information of the Cyberstalking is active on accused and also the victim. educational and networking sites where people share information. You can prevent it by 2 Have you seen children indicted in India? Many children and their parents think that law, especially penal and • monitoring your child’s access pecuniary punishment/fine, is not enforced in cases when the perpetrator is to the internet. Use an internet a child. I tell them a strong NO. Take the Delhi DPS case, for example, where monitoring software if possible. a minor was involved in the recording of a sexual act with his classmate on • making use of internet filters to his mobile and distributing it for profit. Even though it cannot be categorised restrict access of your teenager to exclusively as a stalking case, the child perpetrator was expelled and a case was inappropriate sites. booked against him. • checking your teenager’s friend list. So, I always tell children that it is better for them to maintain their good • asking your children not to post reputation than to carry a black mark forever. Even though children under the personal details like address online. age of 14 are rarely indicted, there are instances where such children have been • checking privacy settings. taken into custody for severe offences like creating child pornography. • advising your child not to share passwords. How can parents prevent their children from committing or indulging • explaining why it is unsafe to post 3 in cyberstalking? photos online Parents set the best examples for children including cyber activities. Don’t let your • setting up a Google Alert for child act like an adult. Parents must monitor the child’s online activities and help yourself every time your child’s name him distinguish between what is ethically wrong and what is right. appears in a blog post on the net. Parents need to observe their children’s offline activities, listen to their frustrations Do make children aware of the fact and anger, and become a mentor. Once the children can vent anything to their that the internet is just as public parents, they will have less interest in involving themselves in criminal activities as the street outside. To prevent like stalking, as a mode of revenge. Parents must make them aware that cyberstalking from progressing cyberspace is not the place for such activities. It is better if the child logs on to the to real-life stalking, let’s help our net in the presence of parents so that they can monitor the child.” children help themselves with the above guidelines. SHAIL RAGHUVANSHI IS A FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR AND POET.42 Parent Circle / March 2012