Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Social Network Safety

Social networking sites like Facebook are a great way to keep in touch with old friends, sending grandma pictures of the kids, networking for career advancement, etc. Social networking sites have changed our lives and our relationships with people. Due to these sites, everybody knows everything about everyone! Social networking sites have given a whole new dimension to Domestic Violence Survivors’ concern for safety.

Domestic Violence crimes are harder to track or even realize with the advent of this new technology. Stalking someone is easier on sites like Facebook. Feelings of jealousy, doubt, and anger are more easily sparked due to the openness of these websites as everything is visible to friends, from whom you have friended to whose wall you have commented on. Nothing is secret from the abuser if he/she is a friend on Facebook.

An example of harassment through Facebook is the bizarre experience of a friend (referred to asF.A). F.A’s ex-husband created a profile under her current husband’s name with F.A’s daughter’s picture as his profile picture. He then added all of her friends to this account and harassed her through this medium. He had gotten picture’s off of F.A’s profile even though he isn’t her ‘friend’ on Facebook.

Restraining orders are also violated on Facebook as in the following case:

In July, 2010, Cleveland, Ohio, Breanna Shanae Nance was arrested ‘on a misdemeanor domestic violence protective order violation.’ Corey Friedman, The Star, 2010. She had violated her restraining order by constantly messaging her former partner with threats of murder. It is easier to breach physical restraining orders online. The domestic violence victim is still within reach of the abuser as in this case.

A more severe example of Facebook’s effects on Domestic Violence is a 2008 incident. A man stabbed his wife with a kitchen knife and a meat cleaver the day after his wife had changed her marital status on facebook to single. ‘Wayne Forrester, 34, told police he was devastated that his wife Emma, also 34, had changed her online profile to “single” days after he had moved out.’ BBC NEWS, ‘Man Killed Wife in Facebook Row,’ 2008. There are many instances where a domestic violence crime occurs in the shape of online crime and is labeled as such. This has understated the dangers of internet safety to victims and survivors of domestic violence.

The dangers of online harassment don’t mean the abused has to shun themselves from social networking. Being actively involved with friends and support groups on these sites can serve a great purpose in the recovery of a survivor. A strong social network whether online or not is essential for normalcy in a survivor’s life. Victims and survivors just need to follow some safety measures. You may find the following tips helpful in maintaining online safety and privacy:

Social Media Safety

Privacy Settings…Most social networking sites do not have any privacy on default mode. Once you’ve made your account, change your privacy settings. After changing the settings make sure you check how your privacy settings are saved and what exactly is viewable to others.

Block…the abuser and friends who are likely to leak your information to him/her. If you simply don’t friend these people or unfriend them after the abuse has taken place, they can still view some of the content you post online. For instance, an unblocked person whom you have mutual friends with will be able to see comments you make on your friends’ links, walls, and pictures. Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. If you don’t protect yourself, you are bound to be ‘found’ on facebook in some way.

Talk to Your Friends and Family…about what they can post online. For instance, they may post a status that says, ‘I’m so excited to hang out with (Survivor’s name) today at Dunkin Donuts in DC.’ This status may be visible to the abuser or someone who would tell the abuser about the survivor’s whereabouts putting the survivor’s safety at risk.

Be Skeptical of Strangers…Internet has given a false sense of security and comfort to many relationships. The use of emoticons and exclamation points can exaggerate ones feelings and can build false trust to a relationship that may not have been built otherwise. Do not add people you do not know, this includes people you have discussions with on group pages, people you chat with in insecure chat rooms, and yes…it includes your ‘oh so trustworthy’ friends from Farmville who help you when you desperately need hay to build a barn! You never know, the abuser may have made a false account and friended you just to know more about your life and vulnerabilities.

Don’t ‘Friend’ Everyone!…Some people want to build a strong facebook community, for this reason they friend everyone they know including people they have just met. Treat people you don’t know so well as strangers and use caution when adding them as friends. Be careful when adding friends that have strong ties with the abuser, they may leak your personal information to him/her.

Password…Change if the abuser knows your password. Pick a password that is difficult to easily guess.


Social Media Safety for Children

More and more children under the age of 18 are joining social networking sites by misrepresenting their age. The only way to keep children safe from internet dangers is to have a talk with them about the dangers and to explain safety measures to them. Closely monitoring children’s online activity through parental guard is also a good idea.

You may also find the following sites helpful:

- http://nnedv.org/resources/safetynetdocs.html
- http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/tips/ST06-003.html

A Safe Option

United Angels Against Domestic Violence is secure network for Domestic violence victims, survivors, and advocates. All members of this site are screened before they’re allowed on the website. This site is new but has the same features as other social networking sites. Visit: http://uaadvnetwork.ning.com

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