How parents can address the dangers of doxxing
Doxxing is a scary threat that involves someone finding and leaking personal information about someone else online—including their name and address. To make matters worse, doxxing is rarely illegal, although it's a form of online harassment that can turn serious. If you're a parent, taking measures to protect your child from doxxing is essential, especially if they chat and game online.
What is doxxing?
If someone is doxxed, their personal information has been leaked online. Often, that personal information consists of a real name, photo, and/or address. Doxxing is a common threat in the digital era, and it can reveal private details that can put your child in danger.
Alarmingly, some children are doxxing each other, either as an underestimated "prank" or as a form of harassment. Cyberbullies may also use the threat of doxxing to blackmail your child into doing something. What's most concerning about doxxing is that the doxxer is likely a stranger.
Many recent doxxing victims did not know their doxxer. Instead, they may have had a social post go viral, or they're well known in a group, circle, or video game. Sometimes the doxxer is triggered by differing opinions on a sensitive topic, like politics, but the reason for the attack is wide-ranging. With impetus, just about anyone can dig deep enough to find personal information on someone that they can leak.
Why doxxing is dangerous
"Swatting" is one of the most concerning dangers that can arise after a person is doxxed, and it involves someone finding a person's information and then calling in law enforcement with an anonymous tip saying that they're an imminent threat or wanted criminal. Law enforcement is forced to take accusations seriously, and it has resulted in many cases of special units swarming the location and, in some instances, harming innocent residents.
For a child or teen, having their information leaked online could set them up for an unbearable amount of harassment. A bully who they know either online or in person can use doxxing as a platform for giving others access to your child's phone number, email, or other contact information as a means of rallying more harassment and bullying against your child.
As a result of doxxing, some students have experienced disruption to their education as strangers send massive volumes of phone calls, emails, or texts to their place of enrollment. Likewise, doxxing has caused many people to become terminated from their job because of false complaints and reports against them.
So, how do you protect your child from this malicious act? It starts with an open discussion about cyber security.
Protecting your child from doxxing
Educating your children about the dangers of doxxing is the first step in keeping them safe. Let them know what can happen if their personal information is leaked online, and then teach them about cyber hygiene. For instance, tell them what information is safe to share and what information they should never share.
If your children are allowed to use social media, remind them that setting a photo or post to "private" does not protect them from prying eyes. Aside from data breaches and account hackers, anyone with access to their page could save or share that information without their knowledge—and they might not even have bad intentions when they do.
For children who have been the target of bullies in real life, protecting them from doxxing can be even more difficult. Their real-life friends likely know their address, phone number, and so on. This information can easily end up in the wrong hands, especially if their friends aren't practicing good privacy and cyber security habits. Here are some tips to help you keep your child safe.
Monitor what your kids are doing online
Keeping eyes on your children's online activity is essential. Ensure you know what apps they're using to communicate, reinforce your expectations of appropriate behavior, and determine fair punishments for when your children intentionally break the rules.
Even teenagers need and expect you to set limits because they're still growing and learning. So, even for your most responsible child, it's crucial that you respectfully monitor what they're up to while doing your best to give them an appropriate amount of privacy.
Check your children's online profiles and information
Aside from the information that your child is sharing, you might be able to find a whole lot of other details if you go searching. Doxxers can start with seemingly harmless information, like usernames and emails, to connect your child to different accounts on the web—that's why your child should use different usernames on different platforms.
Once a doxxer tracks down a few of your child's accounts, they can begin putting together puzzle pieces and revealing information—like their age, name, and photos. They may even be able to gain access to one of those accounts, which could allow them to impersonate your child, talk to their friends, and get even more info about them.
Periodically use search tools and search engines to look up your child's name and usernames and see what information can be found about them. When possible, report sensitive details and request for information to be removed by the platforms sharing it. If needed, update your child's phone number, email address, or other information to keep them safe.
Remind your child that they can always turn to you
Whether they are being bullied in real life, threatened or blackmailed online, or worried about a piece of information they've shared with someone, it's important that your child always feel confident and comfortable coming to you.
Always remind your children that they can be honest with you, whether they're admitting to a problem, mistake, or something scary that has happened to them. Likewise, make sure your children know to come to you if they ever witness bullying or doxxing, even if it doesn't involve them.
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