Cyberstalking: An Analysis of Students' Online Activity

Cyberstalking: An Analysis of Students' Online Activity

Karen Paullet (Robert Morris University, USA) and Adnan Chawdhry (California University of Pennsylvania, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/IJCRE.2020070101
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Abstract

The internet has become a medium for people to communicate locally or globally in business, education, and their social lives. The increased use of the internet has created an impact on the number of online harassing/cyberstalking cases. This exploratory study of 121 undergraduate students seeks to examine the extent to which cyberstalking is prevalent. This study argues that cyberstalking and harassment will only decrease when the extent of the problem is fully understood and potential victims and law enforcement understand the protections necessary under the law.
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1. Introduction

Over the years, Internet usage has increased causing an impact on the number of online / harassing cyberstalking cases. The primary functions of the Internet are to communicate and research information allowing people to communicate locally or globally in business, education and their social life. The Internet has made it easy for people to compete, meet a companion, or communicate with people on the other side of the world using a mouse click. In 2019, according to the Internet World Stats Report, 320,059,368 people use the Internet in the United States; as a result, there is a concern for Internet safety (Internet World Stats, 20189).

Since the 1990s, stalking and harassing have become more common via the Internet. Until the early 1990’s, if a person needed to find information on a given topic for research or a school project, hours could be spent in the library. Some people were lucky enough to have a set of encyclopedias in their homes where a limited amount of information could be found. Public records were always available to people, but one would have to drive to the local courthouse to locate the records. Going on a family road trip required the purchase of large road maps or trip tickets from the travel agency. In 2018, research, locating records, people, phone numbers, and directions, can occur with the click of a button without one ever having to leave their home. This accessibility to information through using technology has encouraged a relatively new phenomenon called cyberstalking.

The United States Department of Justice defines cyberstalking as the “use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communication devices to stalk another person” (U.S. Attorney General Report, 1999, p.2). Offline stalking is a crime with which many people are familiar. Stalking is a “repetitive pattern of unwanted, harassing or threatening behavior committed by one person against another” (Mechanic, 2000, p. 1). Although offline stalking acts have been reported since the 19th Century, cyberstalking is a crime that is just being examined and reported beginning the late 1990s. The U.S. Attorney General states, “stalking is an existing problem aggravated by a new technology” (U.S. Attorney General Report, 1999, p.2). Similarities have been noted between offline stalking and cyberstalking cases, including the fact that “the majority of cases involve stalking by former intimates, most victims are women, most stalkers are men and stalkers are generally motivated by the desire to control the victim” (U.S. Attorney General Report, 1999, p. 3). Using technology to stalk a victim can include, but is not limited to, the Internet, e-mail, text messaging, global positioning systems (GPS), digital cameras, video cameras, smart phones, blogs and social network sites. One of the differences between cyberstalking and offline stalking is that cyberstalkers face no geographic boundaries. The Internet makes it possible for a person to be stalked virtually anywhere in the world.

This study examines the cyberstalking experiences at the collegiate level. The below research questions will be examined in this study:

  • RQ1: What is the relationship between online stalking activities and occurrences of cyberstalking?

  • RQ2: What is the level fear associated with victims of cyberstalking?

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2. Background

The Internet and use of telecommunications technologies have become easily accessible and are used for almost every facet of daily living throughout the world. Cyberstalking is “the use of the Internet, e-mail and other electronic communication devices to stalk another person” (U.S. Attorney General Report, 1999, p.2). For this study, cyberstalking will be referred to as online stalking and is similar to offline stalking, which is being aggravated by new technologies. Cyberstalking “entails the same general characteristics as traditional stalking, but in being transposed into the virtual environment as it is fundamentally transformed” (Ogilvie, 2000). Stalking itself is not a new crime, but cyberstalking is a new way to commit the crime of stalking while using the Internet or other forms of electronic communication devices.

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