When Bad Things Happen Online
Anyone can receive unwanted sexual advances. The situation as it was seen back in 20th century, but nothing has changed since.
Here are some tips on avoiding the net’s danger zones:
Every city has a red light district, and with a very big population, the online metropolis has more than its share of seedy neighborhoods: from sexually explicit chat forums to explicit photos to wayward lonely-hearts roaming the net in search of something slightly more lewd than love.
Just as in the real world, women and children are more likely to be the targets of unwanted sexual advances from strangers.
Call the cyber-cops: Major online commercial services employ SysOps (Short for System Operators) to make sure that everything runs smoothly. This includes responding to subscribers’ complaints of sexual harassment or inappropriate advances. If an offender consistently singles you out, make sure that you save the harassing messages and note the sender’s ID or account number; this way, when you e-mail the SysOp, you’ll have proof and a positive identification. Generally, such creeps have targeted more than one person, so your complaint probably will be one of many, and the offender’s service will be cut off.
Reporting sexual harassment on the more chaotic Internet is not as easy. Since there is no central management, there is no policing. One way to cool a hot pursuit is to screen your messages with a kill filter, which automatically deletes e-mail from specified sender IDs; icy silence is sometimes the best response. You can also change your own ID, or broadcast the offender’s behavior and ID to people online. A group flame – in which a large group of people simultaneously and strongly reprimand someone for bad behavior – can be highly effective in putting a perpetrator in his or her place.
In general, however, it is probably not worth your time to report every isolated incident, unless you find a certain message so repugnant that you feel its sender deserves serious punishment, Come-ones are common in cyberspace, and however irritating, they are generally as harmless as drive-by whistles from a carload of teenage boys. Use your judgment.
Heed Warning Signs: Don’t participate in chat forums, conferences, boards, or lists with telltale titles. The Internet’s UseNet news groups alt.bondage and alt.bestiality, for example, are to avoided unless you’re ready and willing to be exposed to some pretty racy material. The subject may sound funny to you, but to the people who subscribe to that group, it’s quite serious – and if you post a message, or even lark in that area, you are inviting advances.
Warn children about talking to strangers: Kids should know not to respond to any questions that seem inappropriate. Online creeps can hide behind their anonymity, pretending that they are children themselves. It’s one thing for a cyber-friend to ask what your child’s school is like; it’s another to ask for a specific location, when classes end, and what route he takes home. In general, it’s best to make it a rule that kids are not allowed to go online unless an adult is at home. That way, if kids sense something funny going on, adults can check the offending messages, save the sender’s ID, and take due action.
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