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Oversharing Online: Protect yourself against cyberstalking

01.19.2016 | By: Texas Wesleyan University

Students are sharing more of their lives online and on social media than ever before. From posting pictures from a concert or party, sending a selfie to a friend, or checking into a coffee shop– students are constantly in touch with one another online. As the amount of personal information that everyone shares on social media continues to rise, it is important to recognize what sharing personal information online means to you and your personal safety.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to identify the dangers of cyberstalking and how students can protect themselves online. In the U.S., 7.5 million people are stalked in a single year. Half of the victims are under the age of 25 and their stalkers are usually someone they know, not a stranger.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct targeted at a specific individual that results in them feeling reasonably afraid.  Cyberstalking follows the same definition – only perpetrators utilize technology to torment their victims. This can involve continuously contacting someone online or e-mailing threatening or hateful messages. Cyberstalkers can also use information acquired online to further intimidate and pursue their victim through phone calls or showing up at their home or work place.

The best defense against cyberstalking is to avoid oversharing information– especially online. Here are some basic tips from the Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security’s national cyber security awareness program, to keep in mind when sharing online.

  1. Don’t broadcast your location. Do not activate location or geo-tagging features on your devices. You could be telling a stalker exactly where to find you.
  2. Connect only with people you trust. While some social networks might seem safer for connecting because of the limited personal information shared through them, keep your connections to people you know and trust. You might not know a ‘friend of a friend’ as well as you think you do so take time to consider who you want your online friends to be.
  3. Keep certain things private from everyone. Certain information should be kept completely off your social networks. While it’s fun to have everyone wish you a happy birthday, or for long-lost friends to reconnect with you online, listing your date of birth with your full name and address provides potential stalkers with crucial information that could give them further access to you.
  4. Be thoughtful about what you share. Be aware that when you share a post, picture or video online, you may also be revealing sensitive information about yourself and others. You don’t own anything you post online, and people could use your information, photos, or content for malicious purposes.

 

To find out how you can support National Stalking Awareness Month or find out more information on stalking, please visit the National Stalking Resource Center, a Stop.Think.Connect. National Network partner, and the National Stalking Awareness Month website. 

 

The content above was provided for use by the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign. For more information, view their website DHS.gov/StopThinkConnect.

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