Digital harassment is when cell phones, social networks, and other communications devices are used to bully, threaten, and aggressively badger someone.
Digital harassment is a form of cyberbullying.
Teens are at high risk of experiencing digital harassment at some point during their school years. Now, we are hearing more and more reports of digital harassment among adults.
No one is immune. If you're getting bullied, harassed, threatened, trashed, hacked, sexted, or constant messaged in a digital space, you are a victim of digital harassment.
Certainly, lots of people use their online and mobile lives to stay connected to each other and conduct healthy relationships. But not all relationships are balanced -- especially when you're talking about teens, whose emotional lives run at peak speeds.
Abusers will often use digital devices to become manipulative and controlling. A few texts a day can turn into a few hundred.
Relentless and unreasonable demands escalate into full blown digital harassment.
The abuser presses for things like the other person's passwords (so they can check up on them) and sexy photos and forces their significant other to unfriend people whom the abuser doesn't like.
They may spread lies, impersonate someone, or even intimidate and coerce the other person into doing things they may not normally do.
Our first reaction is to feel hurt, then hope it’ll just blow over. Most people immediately delete the messages and try to forget about it. Some people even reply and say something even nastier.
Digital harassment & Cyber-Bullying is on the rise.
Steve Chamraz and Stephanie Graham of TMJ4 recently did a report on how to protect yourself from digital harassment.
In the report they profiled 2 women. Each were showing no signs of physical harm, but the wounds went more than skin deep:
One says, "I was really hurt, embarrassed." The other explains, "It's an emotional rape." Both women are victims of digital harassment--sharing their stories to help others.
For most of us the internet is a place we go to work, and sometimes play, but it's a fragile playground.
Rebecca Grassl Bradley is a technology law attorney at Whyte, Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. She warns, "It's really impossible to prevent someone from posting information about you or your business online."
From message boards, to business review sites, to blogs, it's basically a freedom of speech free for all. The comments aren't always positive, and there's not much you can do to remove them.
"Under federal law, it's difficult to impossible to do that because they're immune or protected from liability under the Communications Decency Act," Bradley explains.
Sue Scheff of Florida chronicles her landmark internet defamation lawsuit in her book 'Google Bomb'. She won $11.3 million dollars in 2006 after a woman posted false statements about her and her child advocacy group, P.U.R.E.
"She wrote 'Sue Scheff abuses children, I kidnap kids, I exploit families, I'm a con, I'm dangerous," Sue explains.
When she decided to fight back it wasn't an easy process.
"Anybody can sue anybody, the fact is you have to have a lot of money," Sue says matter-of-factly.
Despite the eventual multi-million dollar payout, Sue says her life will never be quite the same.
"They did destroy me, really for 5 years, I mean even today, you can Google me and find some horrific stuff about me out there," Sue says.
In another case, a local woman, who asked we hide her identity, says her ex-husband posted their private pictures on a fake Facebook page for everyone to see.
"He was trying to degrade me," she recalls.
She says removing the pictures was frustrating, explaining, "You have to go through a long process to prove you did not do this. It was not an easy process, there was no talking on the phone, it was all done through email."
So how do you prevent this from happening in the first place?
Ken Hanson has helped hundreds of businesses learn to brand themselves through his marketing firm Hanson Dodge. He says people need to create their own brand online.
"Your online reputation is, for all practical purposes, who you are," Hanson warns.
The irony here is you have to be online in order to protect yourself from internet defamers. Hanson suggests blogging, networking, and doing everything you can to build your online reputation on your terms.
"It would probably be helpful for everyone to Google themselves and see what's out there," Hanson suggests.
Another good idea is to sign up for Google and Twitter alerts or Twilerts.
"You can receive an alert whenever anything positive or negative is posted about you online," Bradley says.
Even if you take steps to counteract or prevent it, this form of digital harassment can still happen. However, thanks to trailblazers like Sue, authorities are becoming more aware of it, and it's getting easier to fight back.
"I spent 5 yrs in the dark, not coming out, not sharing my story. The more I'm able to help people, and the more I'm able to talk about it, it's been very helpful," Sue admits.
Digital harassment is abuse and is no laughing matter.
People are harsh over the internet sometimes, mainly because of the fact that they aren’t saying it to your face.
Internet defamation and digital harassment is still a relatively new problem, but there is some help out there.
One group is called CiviliNation. It's a non-profit group that offers victims advice and guidance.
Another group educating teens and young adults is Athinline.org.
It is time to educate ourselves on this high tech bullying we call digital harassment and become part of the solution.
No matter how large or small, every action you take to increase awareness of digital harassment is an important step.
She teaches at California State University, East Bay and is known as America's Most Trusted Learning Expert. She helps children and adults solve learning problems with her Amazing Grades Study Skills System and is an expert in learning styles.
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