n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - The victimisation of young people through cyber stalking - what to do?

Volume 15, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



Cyber stalking is a complex phenomenon which is a dangerous and harmful consequence of modern society's participation and interaction with cyber technology and the Internet. Cyber stalking occurs when a person is persistently pursued online through electronic technology such as the Internet in an unsolicited fashion which may result in serious physical, emotional and psychological consequences for the victim. Although every age group is vulnerable to becoming a victim of cyber stalking, this paper specifically focuses on the victimisation of young people. In a national survey the Youth Research Unit (YRU) of the Bureau of Market Research of the University of South Africa (UNISA) (cf. Basson,Van Aardt, & Tustin 2011) established that 15 per cent of young respondents felt threatened by online harassment, of which the majority were 16 to18 year old. Cyber stalkers can easily obtain their victims' contact information and track their activity. They can also install a system which allows them to be alerted whenever their prey is online. Once this link is established it opens doors to various opportunities to bombard their victims with spam, subscribe them to mailing lists, free offers, pornographic web sites and even sexual intimidation as it potentially exposes the victims thereof to sexual denigration, exploitation or subordination. Through social networking technology, a social, collaborative and interactive podium has been created for Internet users to interact and communicate with each other by creating online profiles. As social networks advance and expand, so too, does the level and intensity of socialisation among Internet users. Users tend to become more open and candid, even desensitised, when expressing their personal thoughts and sharing information and thus become vulnerable to Internet violations. Younger people especially, are vulnerable to cyber stalking. It follows that prevention strategies aimed at the younger generation should be emphasised. In this regard, it seems as if education and awareness are a young person's best defence against cyber stalking. It is the aim of this article to provide guidelines in terms of addressing cyber-stalking involving young persons.

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