Before you read further, know that is there is a threat or personal contact information about your or your child posted online, you have to take action and report it to the authorities. Better ot be embarassed a bit for jumping the gun than finding your child or yourself in physical danger.
Telling the difference between flaming, netbullying and harassment and cyberstalking, knowing when to ignore it and when to get help...
It’s not always easy to tell these apart, except for serious cases of cyberstalking, when you “know it when you see it.” But you can start by running through this checklist. If the communication is only a flame, you may not be able to do much about it. (Sometimes ISPs will consider this a terms of service violation.) But the closer it comes to real life threats the more likely you can and should get help from the authorities.
The kind of threat:
- The communication uses lewd language
- The communication insults your child directly (“You are stupid!”)
- The communication threatens your child vaguely (“I’m going to get you!”)
- The communication threatens your child with bodily harm. (“I’m going to beat you up!”)
- There is a general serious threat. (“There is a bomb in the school!” or “Don’t take the school bus today!”)
- The communication threatens your child with serious bodily harm or death (“I am going to break your legs!” or “I am going to kill you!”)
The frequency of the threats:
- It is a one-time communication
- The communication is repeated in the same or different ways
- The communications are increasing
- Third-parties are joining in and communications are now being received from (what appears to be) additional people
The source of the threats:
- Your child knows who is doing this
- Your child thinks they know who is doing this
- Your child has no idea who is doing this
- The messages appear to be from several different people
The nature of the threats:
- Repeated e-mails or IMs
- Following the child around online, into chatrooms, favorite websites, etc.
- Building fake profiles, websites or posing as your child’s e-mail or IM
- Planting statements to provoke third-party stalking and harassment
- Signing your child up for porn sites and e-mailing lists and junk e-mail and IM.
- Breaking in to their accounts online
- Stealing or otherwise accessing their passwords
- Posting images of the child online (taken from any source, including video and photo phones)
- Posting real or doctored sexual images of the child online
- Sharing personal information about the child
- Sharing intimate information about the child (sexual, special problems, etc.)
- Sharing contact information about the child coupled with a sexual solicitation (“for a good time call …” or “I am interested in [fill in the blank] sex…”)
- Reporting the child for real or provoked terms of service violations (“notify wars” or “warning wars”)
- Encouraging that others share their top ten “hit lists,” or ugly lists, or slut lists online and including your child on that list.
- Posting and encouraging others to post nasty comments on your child’s blog or guestbook.
- Hacking your child’s computer and sending your child malicious codes.
- Sending threats to others (like the president of the United States) or attacking others while posing as your child.
- Copying others on your child’s private e-mail and IM communications.
- Posting bad reviews or feedback on your child without cause.
- Registering your child’s name and setting up a bash website or profile.
- Posting rude or provocative comments while posing as your child (such as insulting racial minorities at a website devoted to that racial minority).
- Sending SPAM or malware to others while posing as your child.
- Breaking the rules of a website or service while posing as your child.
- Masquerading as your child for any purpose.
- Posting your child’s text-messaging address or cell phone number online to encourage abuse and increase your child’s text-messaging or cell phone charges.
- Launching a denial of service attack on your child’s website.
- Sending “jokes” about your child to others or mailing lists.
The more repeated the communications are, the greater the threats (or enlarging this to include third-parties) and the more dangerous the methods, the more likely law enforcement or legal process be used. If personal contact information is being shared online, this must be treated very seriously.
If the child thinks they know who is doing this, that may either make this more serious, or less. But once third-parties are involved (hate groups, sexually-deviant groups, etc.) it makes no difference if the person who started this is a young seven year old doing it for a laugh. It escalates quickly and can be dangerous.
It can be very helpful if you have pre-installed a monitoring software program that can record all communications and all instant messaging platforms. When netbullying happens, you would have the proof necessary to do something about it.
Also, remember that different netbullies have different motives for their bullying. Understanding their motives can be very effective in stopping their bullying. You can read more about the reasons kids netbully and the solutions that work with each type of netbully at the Why Kids NetBully page.
If you are going to make a report to the ISP, the school or the police, you can use the form and instructions at Report It! These will help you get a more effective response.
And if you need help deciding whether you need ot report the netbullying, feel free to drop by WiredSafety.org's cyberstalking and harassment tipline where a trained volunteer will help you with your problem. Note that if there is a death threat or one of serious bodily harm or personal contact information posted online, WiredSafety.org requires that you make a police report before they will assist you. It is always better to be safe than sorry. If your local police department doesn't know how to handle the complaint, refer them to CyberLawEnforcement.org for help.