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Teens & Technology

By AWARE® Teen Advisory Board Members - Laura Espinoza, Melissa Marks & Emma Thoms

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Though not as frequently discussed as other types of domestic and dating violence, stalking is one of the most prevalent and easily facilitated in today’s digital age. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the U.S. have been stalked. Stalking is a crime under the laws of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and the Federal government. Legal definitions of stalking vary by jurisdiction. However, it can generally be defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

People often assume that stories of stalking are like those portrayed in movies, where a stranger you smiled at in Starbucks down the street becomes obsessed and starts following you around, but that's not as common as one may think. Of the millions of men and women that experienced stalking in the U.S., “60.8% of women and 43.5% of men report[ed] being stalked by a current or former partner” and nearly 3 out of 4 victims knew their stalker in some capacity.  Since stalking is typically perpetrated by an intimate partner, victims are more likely to see an escalation in the behavior of the perpetrator which often leads to other violent acts. It is reported that weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of 5 cases of stalking.

Studies also show that over 60% of stalkers pursue victims at least once a week, and many times, daily--using more than one method. The digital age has brought scary new wave of stalking facilitated by apps most teens use daily, including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Location features on social media apps allow us to update our friends on where we are,but also provides that same information to people who may not have your best interest in mind. Even without a specific location tagged, photos and status updates make it easier for a stalker to piece together someone’s routine and keep tabs on them, potentially putting them and their friends in danger.

Here are some examples of stalking behaviors:

  • Follow you and show up where you are uninvited.
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails.
  • Damage your home, car, or other property.
  •  Monitor your phone calls or computer use.
  • Use social media or technology, like hidden cameras or GPS, to track where you go.
  • Drive by or hang out around your home, school,or work.
  • Threaten to hurt you, your family, friends, orpets.
  • Post information or spread rumors about you on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
  • Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.

If you believe that you are being stalked, here are some steps you can take to increase your safety:

  • Trust your instincts. Don’t downplay the danger. If you feel you are unsafe, you probably are.
  • Take threats seriously. Danger generally is higher when the stalker talks about suicide or murder.
  • Develop a safety plan. Consider changing your routine, arranging somewhere else to stay, and having a friend or relative go places with you
  • Don’t communicate with the stalker or respond to attempts to contact you.
  • Keep evidence of the stalking. When the stalker follows you or contacts you, write down the time, date, and place. Keep e-mails, phone messages, letters, or notes. Photograph anything of yours the stalker damages and any injuries the stalker causes. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw.
  • Tell family, friends, roommates, and co-workers about the stalking and seek their support. Tell security staff at your job or school. Ask them to help watch out for your safety.
  • If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more information on stalking, visit the Stalking Resource Center.  If you are concerned that you or a loved one is a victim of stalking, contact the stalking hotline: 1-855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846).

Sources: 

Stalking Fact Sheet. National Center for Victims of Crime: Stalking Resource Center.

Facts about Domestic Violence and Stalking. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

By Sophie Shapiro, AWARE® Intern

“Snap Map” is the latest feature the popular app Snapchat has to offer to teens and young adults everywhere. However, this new way of socializing may appeal to predators or contribute to stalking behaviors. With one swipe you can access the whereabouts of your Snapchat friends and, should you choose to opt into this feature, they can see your location as well. That’s right! Your Snapchat friends can see your exact street address. 

The map also reveals who you’re with and when you’re on the go. With its risks outweighing its social benefits, Snap Map may pose a threat to teens’ safety and privacy.



 
Designed for purely social benefits, Snap Map lets users know their friends’ whereabouts at all times. Users can also post all the fun they’re having at specific locations on the map and view events worldwide.
 

The feature has been met with more criticism and concern than praise. According to Omnicore’s statistics, 71% of Snapchat users are under the age of 34, a younger demographic more vulnerable to stalking made much easier by Snap Map. For those in an unhealthy relationship, the feature has made it much easier for their abusive partners to track their whereabouts and keep tabs on who else they may be around.

Location features can be used on other social media platforms besides Snapchatt. Instagram and Facebook both allow users to tag their location in a post. Twitter also allows users to tag which city they are tweeting from. Everyone should be aware of how these location features can impact their privacy. Every app has a section on privacy settings that allow users to customize how much they want to share with others. 

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·        Review Privacy Settings: Most online accounts, not just on social media, let users choose what others can see. Check the privacy of status updates and profile information.

·        Minimize Use of Location Settings: The GPS in your phone could be sharing your location without you realizing it! Check your phone settings to disable location sharing on your apps.

·        Be Thoughtful about Connecting Social Media Accounts: Connecting accounts can make it easier to update them all in one action, but be conscious of how connecting accounts can make your account available to more people. Connecting accounts makes it harder secure your privacy.

·        Use Strong Passwords: Don’t use the same password on all accounts! Make sure passwords are not so personal that a friend could guess them. When possible, use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

·        Don’t Accept a Strangers’ Follow Request: Having more followers is not worth hindering your online safety! Think about who you want to see your photos and information before accepting any follow requests.

 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or dating abuse, please contact JCADA for support on our confidential helpline: 1-877-88-JCADA(52232).


Sources:

https://www.omnicoreagency.com/snapchat-statistics/

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/07/17/even_teenagers_are_creeped_out_by_snapchat_s_new_map_feature.html

https://www.techsafety.org/blog/2014/1/27/10-easy-steps-to-maximize-privacy

 

Posted by AWARE Team | Topic: Teens & Technology  | Category: Techonology | 0 Comments | Leave a Comment

By Marli Abramowitz, AWARE® Intern

The start of the school year brings with it a flurry of back to school tweets, posts, and snaps. It’s become customary to take our phones with us everywhere and constantly scroll through what is on our screens, even if we're surrounded by other people we could be socializing with. It’s all too easy to get caught up in all the social media buzz and forget to be present. This school year, try out a few of these self-care tips to give yourself a much needed break from social media!

·         Get outside: Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather before it’s too cold. Try taking a walk, going to the pool, hiking, having a picnic, or other things.

·         Start a new book: Set aside some time to read for pleasure in between school reading assignments.

·         Get creative: Practice mindfulness through creative methods that don’t involve screens like painting, scrap booking, knitting, or coloring.

·         Hang with friends: Enjoy socializing and connecting with friends you may have missed over the summer. Keep your phone tucked away in your pocket so you can focus on your friends and not what’s happening online. Break out some board games to keep everyone engaged in some healthy competition.

Setting boundaries and taking a break from social media allows us to focus on and appreciate our offline happiness. Posts with photos of friends, family, and trips are nice, but being present to enjoy the memories being made in the moment is invaluable. 

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AWARE® is dedicated to empowering teens and young adults with the skills and information they need to build healthy relationships.
Email: aware@awarenow.org • Office: 301.315.8040 • Confidential Helpline: 877.885.2232