Do Not Underestimate the Risks of Social Networking!

Social networks become a part of our lives whether we want them or not. New websites keep emerging that prompt people from all around the world to meet, communicate, discuss their shared hobbies and interests, share photos, videos, play games, meet... The possibilities and activities social networks offer are really broad. And with that, the risk of their abuse is also increasing. 

Experts claim that more than 250 million people all over the world use the most renowned and popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, and that this number is growing every day.

Especially young people discovered social networks for themselves and use them abundantly. Communication within social networks is fun and develops friendships and social skills; on the other hand, it also brings certain security risks.

Cyberbullying is obviously one of the most common abuse of information communication technologies. Cyberbullies may use not only social networks, but also mobile phones and the Internet. It is an activity that is supposed to throw someone off their balance. The numbers of victims of cyberbullying is also growing; that is why it is essential to strive to prevent it, mainly among children and adolescents.

Cyberbullying and Traditional Bullying

What cyberbullying and traditional bullying have in common is the goal of inflicting emotional or physical harm on someone. In many cases, types of bullying overlap and complement each other. However, the virtual world is very different from the real world and so there are also many differences between cyberbullying and traditional bullying. The main characteristic feature of cyberbullying is its anonymity. People communicate unburdened by their social roles, physical inadequacies; if they wish to not to be in contact with someone, they can stop easily enough. It is then only up to ourselves alone how we approach the possibilities offered by modern technologies.

Characteristics of Cyberbullying

1. Attackers Are Anonymous

In a virtual environment, attackers usually go under a nickname. It is not a problem for the aggressor to create a new identity with every attack. The feeling of elusiveness strengthens aggressors' desire and courage to try harsher methods and forms of attacks, and perhaps even engage in multiple attacks. Such anonymity, however, can often be only seeming, as the identity of the attackers is often detectable by means of effective procedures.

2. Profiles of Both Attackers and Victims Are Changing

In the virtual world, age, sex, social status or power of the attacker do not matter. Anyone with knowledge of information technology can originate cyberbullying, even a physically weak individual. Victims of this kind of bullying sometimes become perpetrators of cyberbullying or its observers themselves. Meeting people through social networking in a virtual world is quite common nowadays. It is recommended to behave safely and responsibly on the Internet within cyberbullying prevention as well as refraining from taking unnecessary risks or disclosing personal information or personal photos.

3. Time and Place of Attacks Is Changing

In traditional bullying, it is possible to partially predict where an attack will take place. But cyberbullying in a virtual space can be encountered anytime and anywhere. We can become a victim every time we connect to the Internet or have a mobile phone on us. In such cases, we have nowhere to hide. A cyberbully is able to find us anywhere, even within the safety of our home, for example at midnight.

4. People Behave Differently in the Virtual World Than They Do in the Real World

In a virtual world, people are free to pretend anything: give false information regarding their age, job, and personal information and use them to manipulate others. Some people act with less caution than they do in the real world. For example, they are more courageous in conversations on sensitive subjects, they communicate without inhibitions, etc. They find courage to try out such methods they would never try in reality. They fail to see the impact of their behaviour on their victims and if we take into account the fact that attackers sometimes don't even know their victims personally, it makes the whole situation much more complicated.

Furthermore, virtual communication disrupts the idea of how people communicate in the first place and how interpersonal relationships are formed.

5. When Spreading Cyberbullying, Audience Is Usually Helpful to the Attacker

It is very easy to pass cyberbullying means on and so cyberbullying can have a very large audience. If sensitive messages, recordings or photos get published on the Internet, others will make sure they get spread out. This "audience" then enables the attacker to increase the attack intensity or worsen the impact on the victim.

6. Cyberbullying Impact on the Victim Is Not Easy to Spot

Cyberbullying is usually related to emotional abuse of the victim. Unlike bruises and scratches, mental scars are not noticeable at the first sight. Cyberbullying victims are often introverted and they don't talk about their problems. There are many reasons for such behaviour, whether it be shame, fear, fear of being misunderstood, not recognizing emotional bullying, etc. This may make them stand alone against their situation and they often fail to handle it.

7. Cyberbullying May Also Be Unintentional

Sometimes, cyberbullying can be the result of a misjudged situation or reaction of the given person. Our joke may do someone harm.

Stalking and Cyberstalking

Repeated and gradating harassment of varying intensity may take various forms. The attacker can use pursuit, text-message or e-mail "bombing", incessant calls or various "gifts" the victim doesn't want. Within IT technologies, we use the term cyberstalking. Most frequent stalking victims are celebrities, ex-partners and politicians. The most traditional methods of making contact with the victim are messages with varying contents. Stalkers use a wide variety of emotions in their efforts to contact the victim.

A stalker demonstrates his/her strength in a way that makes the victim afraid. Stalkers can physically pursue their victims e.g. on their way to or from work, wait for the victims in front of their houses, threaten them and strive to control the victims' lives. The pursued victim sometimes becomes a victim of a sexually motivated murder. Further stalking stages may entail damaging or destroying victim's belongings. This make take form of scratched cars, punctured car tires, broken window, killed pet, damaged personal belongings. It is not uncommon for the stalker to pretend to be a victim. Stalking and cyberstalking both often entail stalker's effort to denigrate their victim e.g. by spreading untrue rumours about them at work, among their friends or in other environments.

It is not easy to recognize the stalker and they often go unmasked forever. Men become stalkers more often than women; however, female stalkers tend to be more problematic due to their persistence and systematic nature.

A person the victim knows personally can be a stalker; the victim can even be aware of being stalked by them. Victims sometimes know their stalkers personally but do not recognize them as the perpetrators of stalking; sometimes stalkers do not have any personal connections to their victims which they choose on the Internet.

Stalking is a significant criminology phenomenon since it may foreshadow more serious violent felonies.

Stalker Typology

1. Ex-Partner

The person is not able to accept termination of the relationship, whether it is a business, commercial, therapeutic relationship or partner, intimate relationship. Stalker behaviour in this case is motivated by a desire to restore the defunct relationship or a desire for revenge for the rejection. They may feel humiliated by the rejection, feeling a sense of loss, combined with frustration, anger and jealousy. In many cases, this type of stalker has weak social skills and superficial social contacts.

2. Worshipper

This type of pursuer craves a relationship with the person who captured their interest. They assume that the unsuspecting counterpart will reciprocate their feelings, they do not seek a primarily sexual relationship, they rather desire to be admired by their chosen person - admitted, accepted by them. Any response from the other party encourages and motivates them to further action. Worshippers have increased emotional demands; if rejected, they may start threatening, trying to destroy the other person, they can even use intimidation, violence. This type includes the so-called celebrity stalkers who pursue famous people.

3. Clumsy Suitor

These people are socially inept with little ability to meet people. They long for intimate or romantic relationships, but are unable to establish them. They are often narcissistic and lack empathy. They seek to get physical contact with the victim (holding hands, kissing ...), and they usually do not use any violent means to get it. Usually not as persistent as other types of stalkers.

4. Hurt Pursuer

The motive of persecution is a real or imagined injury caused by the victim. Attacks are based on intimidation and threats. These stalkers are very persistent; harassment gives them a sense of satisfaction and power over the victim. The behaviour of this type of stalker is often irrational and paranoid. They do not resort to physical violence but rather to verbal intimidation, threatening, taking revenge on domestic animals or pets, they can break into the victims' houses or apartments, etc.

5. Sexual Attacker

This type of stalker have offensive to sexually aggressive behaviour. They seek physical or sexual assault at their victims. The motivation is the desire for sexual satisfaction or feeling of control over victims. This type of stalker is usually represented by sexual deviants with low ability of social behaviour. Their behaviour is characterized by sadism, masochism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, obscene behaviour, etc.

6. Deluded Lover

This type of stalker lives in the belief that the victim is in love with them and everything the victim does is interpreted so as to promote the delusion. The stalker is convinced that their dream romance becomes a real solid relationship; they may also suffer from acute paranoia. These stalkers usually choose a victim of high social status and negate any legal measures addressing the situation on behalf of the other party. If not subject to psychological care, they usually continue stalking.

7. Cyberstalkers

Cyberstalking only uses information and communication technologies. Cyberstalkers usually pursue their victims by means of electronic media. Cyberstalking may become an accompanying phenomenon during any of the aforementioned types of stalking.


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