Abuse in the Internet Age

Abuse & Neglect


Abuse in the Internet Age

If you’re like most teenagers, one of your favorite activities is hopping on the internet and chatting with your friends, whether through MySpace, Facebook, IM, or various websites, their bulletin boards and chat rooms. Seldom does one consider the potential risks of logging on to any of these social networking mediums.

There is always the potential for harassment both from known acquaintances and strangers. Online bullying has become a major problem that teens and children face, when they are emotionally and verbally abused, stalked or otherwise threatened through technology. Just because it is happening in a text message, IM or chat session does not mean it is ok to abuse others, or allow oneself to be abused.

Along with bullying, a major problem is the existence of sexual predators seeking to lure adolescents through the internet. It is the perfect setting for doing this because most interactions can be done anonymously. Predators are able to gain the trust of their victims, and develop a kind of friendship and intimacy. Victims can be convinced to meet in person with their new friend, and put themselves at risk for sexual abuse and violence.

Sadly, there have been several real life tragedies, including a 13 year-old Connecticut girl who was murdered by a 25 year-old man in 2002. She had been exchanging sexually graphic messages online with him, and arranged a live meeting. They found her body at the bottom of a remote ravine in New York, having been strangled to death.

Dealing with Online Abuse

You should be careful of giving our personal information to anyone on the internet and be wary of ‘friends’ you meet who increasingly send inappropriate videos, pictures or dialogue.

There are many things you can do to avoid online abuse and bullying: First, both you, your parents, and other adults you rely on must understand the cyber world that you exist in, and understand how to use the various technologies, including email, IM, bulletin boards, text messaging.

Second, if you identify that you are being harassed, bullied or sexually solicited, you should communicate that to parents, teachers, guidance counselors or another responsible adult immediately.

Third, save the evidence, whether it’s from IM, email, a chat session, a text message, or voice message. Try to identify the abuser. If the evidence appears to be of a criminal nature, contact the police. It is appropriate to contact police in the following instances: threats of violence, coercion, obscene or harassing text messages, harassment or stalking, hate or bias crimes, creating or sending sexually explicit pictures, sexual exploitation, etc. Remember just because you were able to defend yourself, the same predator could go after other victims if he isn't stopped.

Fourth, regardless of whether the cyber bully or abuser can be identified, you should cease all contact with the bully. This may involve ignoring contact requests, changing a username, leaving the chatroom, or blocking a phone number, email or IM user.