Social media offers the opportunity for friends and family to all stay connected. With advancing technologies, the popularity of these platforms has increased tremendously. Social media has its perks, as well as flaws — lack of privacy being the root concern for everyone. From Instagram posts to tweets, leading a private life online is quite difficult these days. These public posts, where people share their personal information such as address or daily activities, leave them in a vulnerable and susceptible position.

Cyberstalking via social media is the misuse of the internet to harass or stalk an individual. Though cyberstalking is a crime, people often tend to commit it out of curiosity or habit. What starts as ignorance can later turn into dangerous criminal behaviour. 

The below statistics recently released by WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse – a volunteer organization) paints a clear picture of online stalking perpetrators and victims.

. The victims:

Approximately 60% of victims are female and about 38% are between 18–30 years old.

. The Attackers:

An estimated 40% of attackers are male, while 30% are female. On average, a significant number of stalkers (30%) are of unknown gender. About 53% of the stalkers are people known to their victim. 

. The Crime:

30% of the reported online stalking behaviour evolves from social media. A tremendous number (76%) of cases escalate to other media platforms and about 25% of stalkers resort to physical violence. Unfortunately, only 37% of cases are reported to the police.

How To Prevent Cyberstalking:

There are several steps you can take when making use of social media to protect yourself from online stalking.

  • Posting personal and private information on social media accounts is not a good practice and should be avoided.
  • Social media accounts have in-built privacy controls, do your research and make use of them.
  • Sometimes stalkers post obscene content in your name. You can report those posts and keep a screenshot as proof. Consider Googling your name once in a while to check if any such content exists.
  • Having a safe and secure password is a mandate. Change your passwords regularly and do not mention them anywhere.
  • Never give away your personal information to anonymous callers or on social media platforms. Beware of scammers.
  • Avoid providing your actual email ID when not necessary — you can create a dummy ID to be used just for social media.
  • If you have a nasty break-up and your ex-partner has access to your social media accounts, reset your passwords. Consider blocking your ex-partner from all social media platforms, including email. 
  • It can be helpful to use a slightly pixelated photo for social media profiles, to ensure security.
  • Only accept friends or follow requests of people you know. 
  • Update your phone and laptop’s software to enhance data safety. It will also help you to trace and remove any viruses or malware planted to track your actions.
  • You can install internet security software for a safer browsing and online privacy experience. 

Tips For Improving Online Privacy On Social Media Apps:

. Facebook —

Here, we log into our account using our real names, leaving us in a vulnerable position. Make use of Facebook’s privacy settings and unfriend/block any person who threatens you. If a person is harassing you on Facebook, you can report them to Facebook’s security team. All you need to do is click on their profile, then on the top right corner, click the button containing three dots and select ‘Find support or report profile’.

. Instagram —

Blocking someone on Instagram is easy. Just click on their profile, select the button with three dots and choose ‘Block this user’. Clicking the three-dot button also gives you the option to report an account. You can set your account private so that your friends will have to ask for permission before following you. 

. Twitter —

It is very easy to block users on Twitter. Click on their profile, select the little gear icon adjacent to the Follow icon, then choose [email protected]

Stay safe on the internet and maintain your online privacy by taking these necessary precautions. Whether it’s an obsessive neighbour, a creepy follower or an ex-partner, understand that anyone can be a stalker. Consider opting for the installation of internet security software for enhanced privacy, preventing stalkers from accessing your personal information, financial data and even physical location.