Is there a difference between cyberstalking and cyberharrassment?

Cyberstalking and cyberharassment are similar, but still two different animals. Cyberharassment is a broad term, encompassing a variety of cyber crimes, including, but not limited to, cyberbullying and cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is a specific type of Internet crime, and is often perpetrated by teenagers or young adults over relationships gone wrong.

Cyberstalking often begins offline, and is then continued over the Internet. Internet stalkers may be real life stalkers, and for this reason cyberstalking is taken quite seriously by law enforcement officers in most areas. The victim is often pursued relentlessly, both online and offline. Their phone, email, and personal space may be invaded by their stalker. If the stalker is aware of their online victims physical location, the situation becomes even more dangerous.

Cyberstalkers often follow their victims around the Internet. After learning their emails and screen names, they stalk them onto the message boards and chat rooms that they frequent, often posting threatening or defaming messages. They may send the victim huge amounts of email – some threatening, as well as signing them up for mailing lists. They may even go so far as to post messages or blogs about their victims, doctor photos, or create entire websites devoted to their stalking victim. Stalking using popular social networking sites is also common.

Victims of cyberstalking may find it difficult to even get on the Internet, for fear of what they may find. Each day, they receive new threatening or pornographic emails, and find that their online friends are being harassed or alienated. In this way, cyberstalking is incredibly similar to stalking in real life. The goal is to make the victim as miserable as possible, and the stalker often succeeds.

Cyberstalkers are often slightly unhinged. They may have anger or jealousy issues, or they may simply be mentally ill. Either way, their goal is to make life as difficult as possible for their victim on a daily basis. They may be a stranger, but are likely to be an ex-boyfriend or ex-spouse. People who participate in online dating networks are also at risk for cyberstalking, especially if the relationship goes sour.

Many U.S. states have laws against cyberharassment or cyberstalking. If you feel that you or your child may be a victim of these crimes, report this to your local police department. This is especially important if you think your stalker may know your family’s identity or location. The police will be able to help you to identify and prosecute your stalker. Most cyberstalkers know their victim in real life, so even if you aren’t sure who is harassing you, they probably know you. Do not attempt to handle the situation yourself, as it is likely to escalate quickly.

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