More Than 40 Percent of FRCC Students are Victims of Cyber-Stalking
By Matthew Sendejo
Crystal, a student at Front Range Community College, was frequently the victim of her friends’ jokes. She had yet to join the popular social networking site, Facebook, and began to feel a little left out.
Rather than feel like an outsider, she decided to take action. She did what 845 million other people had done, she created a profile.
That’s when her trouble began.
Her boyfriend began using Facebook to stalk her. “It was very intrusive,” says Crystal. By using her Facebook posts and uploaded photos to track her whereabouts. Her boyfriend began to demand an explanation for any time he could not account for. He would literally be counting back the hours between her posts, and their phone conversations to figure out where she had been and what she had been doing. His constant profile checking and tagging himself on all her photos began to put a strain on their relationship.
Some days Crystal just wanted to unwind—alone.
But, her boyfriend would find if she was home through her Facebook posts. One night he showed up really late pounding on her window. “He came to my house at like twelve [midnight],” says Crystal. He thought that she was with another guy. “It took him forever to realize that he was being psychotic.”
After the incident Crystal felt she needed to take a much more guarded approach to her online life. As well as dump her boyfriend. “I changed my number and had to [raise] my security settings.”
Unfortunately, stories like Crystal’s are not unique.
Social networking has become so ubiquitous that it is often easier to name who is not participating than to list everybody who is. One in every seven minutes of online traffic occurs on Facebook. With status updates, uploaded photos and Facebook’s new timeline feature it is possible for other people (as well as Facebook) to monitor your online activity.
The nonverbal cues we receive from face-to-face contact, which help us effectively understand what is being said, are not available online. Text, photos, and videos are the only communication indicators we receive via social networking. This leaves out important nonverbal cues like facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, gestures, and any stress put on certain words.
According to a survey of Front Range Community College students which can be found here (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XLFL6SG) nearly 43 percent of respondents feel that they have been stalked on either Facebook or some other form of social media. Of the respondents who feel that they have been stalked, the number one person who they say is doing the stalking is an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. The second biggest stalkers are from unwanted romantic interests followed by identity thieves and prospective employers.
The rise of social media has sparked concern over whether outdated laws are adequate to address 21st century concerns like cyber-stalking.
With regard to cyber-crimes Sargent Kristy Volesky of the Fort Collins Police Department Crimes Against Persons Unit says that “There are quite a few laws in place actually.”
The problem Sergeant Volesky says is “We have a lot of kids that are doing cyber-bullying, sexting, sext extortion, that sort of stuff, and it happens on a regular basis we just don’t often times get it reported to us.” Adding that “social media is involved in most crimes just because of the age of technology.”
- If you are not already protecting yourself online, here are a few suggestions to help you stay safe:
- Do not post personal information. Giving people access to your birthdate, email address, street address, or social security information is a big no no. This information is easily exploitable by an identity thief.
- Do not accept all friend requests. If you don’t want to be friends with a person in real life then you probably shouldn’t accept his/her friend request online.
- Understand Facebook’s security settings and use them. Most people have security settings that are way too low. It might be time to beef up your security.
- Beware of the Apps- Be careful about what applications you download; they often give broad permission to data miners to access not only your data but your friends’ data also.
- Post only what you want made public- If your mom wouldn’t approve, she probably is not the only one.
- Don’t unthinkingly respond to “friend in distress”. There are “friends in distress” schemes out there, so if your “friend” suddenly needs to use that one favor to borrow some cash, you better call him/her to check first.
- Do not leave your computer on with your Facebook account open- If you do your friends may sneak on your computer and post obscene material on your account and blame it all on you. Don’t do this.