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Cyber Bullying: Helping the Bullied, Stopping the Bullies

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Introduction

Children and teens, who are just learning to navigate social relationships, often find themselves in social situations that are fraught with awkward exchanges. When the line between normal, even acceptable, playful teasing crosses into bullying, problems arise. It’s often difficult for them, and even adults, to discern when teasing becomes bullying, and when a laughing together becomes laughing at someone else’s expense.

Simply put, bullying can be boiled down to unwanted social attention. While it can be subtle or blatant; take place online, or in public; be physical or aggressive; there are a few characteristics that can help define bullying.

What Defines Bullying?

RIP is a good mnemonic to help remember the key elements of defining bullying behavior:

Repetition

Bullying is repetitive, especially after the bullied person has asked for it to stop; thus, the bully is aware that s/he is causing the bullied person(s) physical/emotional discomfort, and furthering the power dynamic. Additionally, bullying is often focused, repeatedly, on the same person, or groups of people.

Power

Bullying is done with the intent of hurting others. This can be physically, or emotionally. A bully is fully aware that they are hurting their targets, and do it anyway.

Intent

In general, a bully (or group of bullies) is in a position of social, or physical, power over the person(s) s/he is bullying. The misconception about bullying is that it’s done only by (a) physically strong person(s), or a popular person(s).

For more on the definition of bullying, see the American Psychological Association, Stop Bullying.Gov, or the National Bullying Prevention Center.

What are Typical Behaviors of Bullies?

Bullying behaviors can range from anything to excluding others from social groups, to physical aggression. It is a wide range that includes verbal, social and physical behaviors. For example, verbal, physical and social behaviors are all included in the definition of bullying.

Physical Bullying

Physical Bullying can range from intimidation, threats, and assault. Bullies can resort to any form of violence, such as pushing, kicking, punching or other such examples.

Childhood Example: A child pushes another child down, and steals his toy, or swing, at the playground.

Teen Example: One teen accidentally-on-purpose bumps into another in the hallway, between classes, spilling his books and papers.

Daven, who was bullied as a child, tells Parents and Teens Against Bullying.org, that the constant physical abuse that he endured from his bully, such as flicking, punching, and even having his bully’s snot wiped on him, was humiliating. He describes the effect of this time as isolating, and full of self-doubt, and that like most victims of bullies, he regrets not involving an adult. Daven lived to tell his tale, and recognize that, in his words, “bullying is the weak choice,” but, according to a Yale University study, bullied victims are up to 9% more likely to consider suicide; and, in the UK, some studies have linked up to half of youth suicides to bullying.

 Verbal/Social Bullying/Relational Bullying

Verbal bullying includes harassment in the form of teasing and taunting, such as name calling, manipulation, and spreading false rumors. According to StopBullying.gov, this is meant to destroy the victim’s reputation. Perhaps, most painful, relational and social bullying is also about socially isolating a victim, and making him/her feel like they don’t belong to their peer group.

Childhood Example: You are a poopie pants! You can’t play with us because you smell bad! We don’t play with poopie pants!

Teen Example: A group of girls stops talking as soon as Jennifer approaches. Jennifer, until a few weeks ago, considered those girls her best friends. She asks what their plans are for the weekend, and the girls exchange glances with one another, snicker, and one girl replies, “um, nothing you’d want to do.” The rest of the girls laugh. Jennifer walks away, and the girls immediately start talking and laughing again.

An Anonymous girl shares that her social isolation lead to her eventual need to be home-schooled, via a cyber-program. She says that it all started with a group of girls and a rumor that spread like wildfire; the anonymous victim lost all of her friends, and became increasingly isolated by her bullies. Still, she was not at peace, because her bullies created false social media accounts to leave cruel and taunting messages and comments on her social media pages. She wasn’t safe from their isolation, even in isolation. Ultimately, when she returned to school, her bullies weren’t finished with her. She tried to stand up for herself, but to no avail. Not unlike many bullying situations, this one doesn’t simply end; it trails on and on, highlighting administrative need for no-contact and knock-it-off policies.

Online Bullying

Online bullying consists of harassing a victim through social media, text message, email and other messaging systems. It also includes using a school’s online resources, or false online accounts to destroy a person’s online reputation.

Childhood Example: Depends on the social media access a child has.

Teen Example: Nice bathing suit. Ever hear of a diet? Or the gym?

There is almost no end to the examples of online bulling stories in the media these days. For example, Hannah Smith, was taunted mercilessly regarding her weight, skin condition, and even a death in her family, on the messaging site Ask.fm, for weeks leading up to her suicide in 2013. Or, there is the story of Grace K. McComas, who was cyberbullied for months leading up to her suicide in 2012.

Online Bullying – Sexually Explicit Subcategory

Online bullying may have a sexual component, such as blackmail, as the bully may have access to compromising information or explicit content. The misconception is that the teen always sends the compromising material to the bully themselves. This isn’t always the case; and even if it were, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t matter. For example, in the case of Erin Andrews, the TV Sportscaster and personality who was famously involved in the “peephole” video and subsequent cyberbullying saga, she was videotaped, in the nude, in her hotel rooms, as she traveled for work, without her knowledge over the course of several years. Her life and career was nearly destroyed by a bully, and she continues to endure cyberbullies who tweet and message her regularly about the incident. Often, teens have photos (or videos) taken of them in bathrooms, through windows, or when they are unconscious. The very real pain at the loss of reputation, coupled with the mockery from peers, can be devastating.

Take the suicide of Jessica (Jesse) Logan, a typical, otherwise happy high school senior from Ohio, who sexted a nude to her boyfriend. They broke up, and he cruelly sent the photo to everyone at their school. She tried to soldier on, but her grades dropped, she started skipping school, and to make it through the day, she’d hide in the bathroom to avoid the students who were calling her a slut, and a whore. She even tried to make the best of a bad situation, going on a local news program as a victim’s advocate for cyberbullying, hoping to prevent something similar from happening to someone else. But, after attending the funeral for someone else, another suicide, Jesse came home and hung herself in her closet.

Who are Most Targeted for Bullying

Bullying can seem random, sometimes; but current research shows that nearly a quarter of students report being bullied. There is some data to suggest that certain types of students are at more risk for bullies than others, and certain personalities are more at risk for being bullies than others.

Students who are more likely to be bullied are generally perceived as “different” than their peers. LGBT youth, and those with disabilities, are especially at risk. However, these, and others, are protected under the law, from such provocation. For example, race, religion ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and disability are all protected classes, under national law. Schools should all be versed on law, and have policies in place to protect these students, should conflicts arise.

Aside from the general idea of those who are less popular than the “in crowd,” students who simply don’t get along well with others, appear anxious, or are unable to defend themselves against provocation are easy targets for bullies. Of course, those who look different than others are always targets for bullies as well; this means that those who are overweight, or who dress differently, or wear their hair in a different fashion. None of the above list will necessarily guarantee that someone will be harassed, but it will certainly not help, if a bully is out to get them.

Often, educators focus on the victims of bullying, and fail to identify the types of students who can become bullies, and therefore don’t intervene before there’s a potential problem. But, it’s equally important to help the bully; according to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Group, 60 percent of boys who were bullies in middle school had a criminal conviction by 24. Shockingly, 40 percent had three or more convictions.

Bullies are born from students who are not only overly-concerned with social status, but also with dominance over their weaker peers to bolster, or mask, their own self-esteem issues. Bullies that turn to physical aggression, not surprisingly, often have issues with violent behavior, and with following rules and standards, and often “hang” with the wrong crowd. Perhaps most importantly, according to a University of Washington and Indiana University Study, administrators may be able to spot them early and intervene, by noting that bullies are far more likely to come from troubled and violent homes.

Cyber Bullying

Definition of Cyberbullying:

The same qualities of repeated, intentional, and social/psychological power plays are involved with cyberbullying. The only difference is that the bullying takes place via electronic mediums such as cell phones, computers or other electronic devices. Cyberbullying can be threatening text messages, e-mails; or, it can even rumors or information posted on public, social media sites or message boards. It can take place exclusively online; or, bullies can combine cyberbullying with traditional bullying.

Cyberstalking

It’s easy to confuse cyberbullying with cyberstalking, especially because we often hear these words used interchangeably, sometimes. It’s especially easy to become confused because cyberbullying has an element of stalking to it: the relentless messaging, the social media pages, and the ability to track the victim, online.

However, cyberstalking is a bit different. Cyberstalking is a repetitive, malicious vendetta often with no legitimate purpose, ironically against a very personal target, carried out with premeditation and obsessive zeal. Cyberstalkers disregard all warnings to stop their illegal activity, and reasonable reasons to stop (like that they are causing distress to another human being).

How is Cyberbullying Different?

Cyberbullying is, in many ways, different than “typical” bullying. Cyberbullying is primarily psychological, as it’s perpetrated through social manipulation and intimidation via messaging and interference with one’s social status through message boards and groups. The primary, and most important, difference between cyberbullying, and traditional bullying, is that it can, and often does, occur 24-hours a day. Cyberbullying takes the “repetition part of bullying to the extreme.

Victims have no respite, or safe place, from their bullies. If they are being bullied on their cell phones, their message beep can go off, even in the safety of their bedroom, even when they are asleep. If they are gaming, involved in a safe community of peer players, it can quickly be infiltrated by bullies who attack them with brutal messages, or ostracization.

Another major difference with cyberbullying is that the “power” may not be the same typical social or physical imbalance that a typical bully has over their victim. Instead, a cyberbully may have access to virtual information, such as an “incriminating,” message, e-mail, or photograph that the victim doesn’t want anyone else to see. This is still an imbalance of power, but not in the traditional sense. It changes the power dynamic, and makes power somewhat of a grey area in the bully/victim relationship, as the bully may have access to this information because they were formerly close, or even intimate, with their victim.

Cyberbullying and Sex

Worst of all, much of cyber bullying, especially among older students, is sometimes sexually motivated, or sexually graphic. Even if untrue, cyber bullying can spread false rumors, ruining reputations through social groups. While the CDC reports that sexual promiscuity among teens is down, with an average of less than 30% of teens having engaged in sexual activity in the previous three months, 21% of those surveyed had been drinking or doing drugs, prior to sexual activity. With inhibitions lowered, photos, texts and videos are a problem.

The subjects of the new Netflix document documentary, Audrie and Daisy (2016), are teenage girls who both admit to drinking more than they normally would one night. These girls learn the hard way that the boys they thought they trusted to care for them at their worst are only lying in wait for their weakest moments, snapping photos of them as they disrobe them, probe their nude bodies, and then spreading videos, texts or rumors around their respective schools. Audrie’s will doesn’t withstand the torturous rigor of the texts, emails and constant shaming she feels at the loss of her reputation; she commits suicide. Daisy attempts to kill herself several times, especially when she learns that her perpetrators will not face sexual assault charges, and she’s called a liar and a whore by her fellow students, former friends via text and message, relentelessly.

However, not all victims of cyberbullying find online contact distressing. In fact, according to the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey, 38% of students weren’t bothered by being harassed online. It was only when online harassment crossed into offline harassment as well, did they feel upset by e-bullying.

Importance of Cyberbullying

Estimates of victims of cyberbullying vary; some studies find as many as 40% of students have reported incidents of cyberbullying. According to the CDC, 15% of high school students have reported being electronically bullied, in the past year; and, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7% of students between grades 6-12 experienced cyber-bullying. Noting that cyberbullying appears to more than double, when restricted to high school students, but is reported early, begs intervention and knowledge regarding how students are engaging, and how to intervene as early as possible.

Cyberbullying.org conducted a study that made it especially clear to students what the definition of cyberbullying is. They told students that cyberbullying meant “repeatedly mak[ing] fun of another person online, or repeatedly pick[ing] on another person through email or text message; or when someone posts something online about another person that they don’t like.” With this definition, about 25% of 10,000 randomly selected 11-18 year olds reported that they’d been cyberbullied (over the past seven years); but only 12% in the past year (January 2014). 17% admitted to cyberbullying others in the past seven years; and only 4% admitted to bullying others in the past year.

This data tells us that while we may have been behind, figuring out this arena where students have been harassing their peers, programs and procedures that are designed to target and reduce it, are working. Therefore, we need to continue to both recognize and highlight cyberbullying as a problem, and we need to work toward positive and effective solutions to eliminate it.

Identifying Cyberbullying

Identifying cyberbullying starts by realizing that you need to look for both victims and bullies. Unlike traditional bullying, victims and bullies share some similar behaviors, such as hiding their phone screens from teachers, quickly minimizing computer browser windows from adults, or refuses to discuss their online activity with adults (or others). However, victims and bullies do behave differently in other ways.

 Identifying Cyberbullies

  • Seems to have multiple accounts, or access to others’ accounts
  • Uses electronic devices at all hours of the day, especially (and including) at night
  • Expresses inappropriate anger at limits on electronic device usage

 Identifying Cyberbully Victims

  • Generalized increase in anxiety, depression or frustration
  • Increased anger, frustration or depression after using electronic media
  • Refusal to talk with parents or teachers about online activities
  • Stops using electronic devices
  • Withdrawal from social, or even home, activity

In this video, despite some of the out dated technology, we see many the examples of a “typical,” cyberbully, and a “typical,” cyberbullying victim. The bully makes attempts to socially isolate the victim, makes him feel socially inferior, and is cruel. The victim withdraws at home, seems sad and refuses to discuss his problem with his mother, quickly hiding all evidence.

Identifying Cyberbullying Culture

According to recent data, students are less likely to report cyberbullying when their school promotes a climate with safe peer-to-peer relationships, and a generally safe environment. Currently, there is not enough research on this nebulous topic; but according to Cyberbyullying.org, students who agreed with statements such as, “feel[ing] safe at school,” feel[ing] that teachers at their school really try to help them succeed,” and “feel[ing] that teachers at their school care about them,” were less likely to report either being victims of cyberbullying, or being cyberbullies themselves. The good news, is that while incidents of cyberbullying are up more than 50 percent in the last five years, nearly 70 percent of students who felt harassed sought help from a trusted friend, parent, or other adult authority figure, leaving room for trusted practices to work.

If You See Something, Say Something

There’s no room for bystanders in bullying. With over 80% of teens using a cell phone, it’s difficult to catch; but, that’s why it’s important for adults to be engaged in the lives of young people and adolescents. Ask questions. Be involved. Notice when things are different. Quite simply: pay attention. And remember, bystanders are victims too. Bystanders report symptoms of anxiety, guilt and shame associated with incidents of bullying.

How to Help in a Cyber Bullying Situation

There’s a relatively simple list of items/ideas that can help in any cyberbullying situation:

Form Relationships

Be a friend to youth. Or, encourage your children to have an adult friend. It’s okay if your children feel more comfortable confiding in a coach, or teacher; just make sure they feel comfortable confiding in someone.

Talk it Out

Mediation can sometimes help resolve a bullying situation, if it’s a misunderstanding that has blown out of proportion. Attempt a talk-it-out situation carefully, if you engage a trained counselor as a mediator and you are confident that violence won’t escalate.

Go Online

Make sure you visit websites that your children frequent, with them, and learn the ins and outs of the pages. Get to know their online “friends,” and be aware of their online activity. Know when things change.

Teach Them Appropriate Responses

It’s never a good idea to add fuel to a fire; so, teach your children not to respond to cyberbullies. Don’t give them any information, respond to any messages, or let them know that they are bothering you. In many ways, this is not much different than traditional bullying; as emotional as it may seem, leaving it alone, may be the best answer.

Evidence

Despite the grey areas of the laws, cyberbullying and cyberstalking are against the law. While there is some potential shame and fear associated with cyberbullying, especially if it’s related to sexual activity, or rule-breaking such as underage drinking or drug use, it’s vital that kids and teens are instructed to never delete any harassing messages.

Report

All online services, such as Facebook, or even Craigslist, have reporting services to report unauthorized, or inappropriate usage, and cyberbullying. Without screenshots and evidence, it’s almost impossible to enforce their policies, however. Utilize their reporting services, and provide them with the evidence you’ve saved to quickly put an end to “small” incidents of cyberbullying.

Utilize Law Enforcement

Most schools have resource officers; engage them, and make sure they are aware of incidents of cyberbullying among the students in their purview. More importantly, make sure that they are aware of the laws that govern cyberbullying in their state, and how to enforce them. Resource officers are specially trained to deal with students and adolescents; sometimes, simply allowing the resource officer to intervene is enough to scare the cyberbully into stopping, rather than engaging criminal charges. However, if activity continues, or if harassment is especially malicious, engage the entire team and report activity to the local and state authorities.

Knock-it-Off Policy and No-Contact

If the bullying is especially pervasive or violent, and as such is affecting the learning environment, it is important to make sure that students are supervised and kept apart as much as possible, both to protect their safety, and to keep other students from being affected. It’s important to make sure that the situation is left to fizzle, rather than ignite. An adult can be provided to walk a student to class, to sit nearby, but not necessarily with the student, in the cafeteria, for example.

Appoint Staff at Every Level

An anti-bullying task manager or team manager should be assigned at the elementary through high school level to work with faculty, administrators, counselors and staff to be kept abreast of all new information in the field, and to have “boots on the ground,” as it were, with the students. Engage a staff member who cares about bullying, stopping it, and about student mental health.

Recognize Limits of “Zero-Tolerance” Programs

Zero-tolerance sounds good on paper, and it sounds good to parents; but, for kids it can sound scary and it can make them afraid to report bullying for fear of reprisal, perhaps even fearing that they may be disciplined themselves, as part of the bullying scenario. Zero tolerance policies have their merits, but it’s important to recognize their limits when dealing with complex bullying scenarios, adolescents and teens.

Engage Parents

Parents are a valuable resource. In many cases, they will be the ones who will be able to tell you if the student’s eating, sleeping, or behavior habits have drastically changed, which will help sound the alarm to a more serious situation. Additionally, parents are a great resource to help reinforce school policy; as administrators you want them on your team, so listen to their needs and be conscious of them. Their primary concern, and yours, is stopping their child’s hurt.

Engage the Community

Community leaders, especially city and county leaders such as mayors and city council members have taken strong roles in speaking out against anti-bullying. Take the time to engage them in speaking at your school, or in writing letters to your students. Engage your local sports teams, or other civic leaders to form a culture of anti-bullying at your school.

Environment

The best way to prevent bullying, of any kind, is to create an environment where bullying isn’t tolerated or condoned. In an ideal world, this is easy. All students love one another, and everyone gets along. There’s no gossip, everyone’s a star athlete, plays in the school band, and gets straight A’s. But, that’s not how it works. So, StompOutBullying, makes these Top 20 suggestions for “Stomping Out” Bullying in your school:

  1. Don’t laugh
  2. Don’t encourage the bully
  3. Stay at a safe distance, and help the target get away
  4. Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
  5. Reach out and become a friend to a bullying victim
  6. Help the victim in any way that you can
  7. Support the victim in private
  8. If you notice someone being isolated, invite them to join you
  9. Include the victim in some of your activities
  10. Tell an adult if you see bullying, or are being bullied
  11. Encourage your school to participate in bullying or cyberbullying prevention programs
  12. Start a peer mentoring program at school
  13. Raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying prevention in your community
  14. Teach friends about being more tolerant of others, even if they are different
  15. Ask your school to set up a private box where kids who are bullied can report it, anonymously
  16. Get someone to sponsor a conflict resolution team
  17. Encourage school administrators to adopt Internet-use policies that address online hate, harassment and pornography
  18. Create events in your school and community to raise anti-bullying, and bullying prevention awareness.
  19. Create bullying prevention awareness posters for your school
  20. Stand up and do something when you hear someone making jokes or comments about: someone’s sexual identity, family member(s), weight, clothing, skin color, accent, or disability.

Stomping Out

Sit with Us

Consider allowing the use of smart phones, especially with apps like SitWithUs, an app designed especially for bullied kids, by a teenager, a victim of bullying herself. The app is designed for kids with no one to sit with in the school cafeteria; they can designate themselves as “alone,” and hope that someone else, an ambassador, will see their avatar and invite them to their table, or vice versa. So far, it’s being used in lunchrooms across the country, and even internationally. It prevents kids from being openly rejected, if they stroll up to a table, and try to make a new friend, while simultaneously being invited to be friends with new people. It means never having to eat alone, and never being rejected.

Cyberbullying and the Law

Currently, cyberbullying is covered at the state level. All states have laws covering cyberbullying, but there is a wide range of what is allowable, for prosecution, or what is considered legal, or protected, under the letter of the law. The Cyberbullying Research Center keeps an updated, interactive map of what states have what laws, including those proposed.

Importantly, laws must consider the fact that cyberbullying can occur both on and off campus. So, laws have to be proposed in such a way that educators have to make a determination whether cyberbullying that happens off campus is having a noticeable detrimental effect on the learning environment on campus. To understand the confusion, realize that states either have decided on criminal sanctions, school sanctions, school policy, or an off-campus policy (or a combination of these).

These terms can be confusing, because they all sound so similar.

Sanction

A threatened penalty for disobeying.

Criminal Sanctions

Because cyberbullying (and bullying) can be classified as a crime, it is subject to criminal punishments.

School Sanctions

Schools get to create and adopt their own disciplinary measures and policies.

School Policy

The bullying law requires all states, apart from Montana, to set an anti-bullying policy to both identify behaviors and disciplinary policies.

School Sanctions

In some states, the bullying law gives the school latitude to discipline students in certain appropriate ways.

Off-Campus

As mentioned above, schools are allowed to discipline students for off-campus behavior, if they’ve determined that it disrupts the on-campus learning environment.

California has a “Yes” in all four categories above, for example; as does New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania and Tennessee. However, states like Wyoming are only 50% yes and 50% no. There are wide variations from state-to-state.

In some cases, felony harassment charges can be brought against cyberbullies; but, there is currently no federal laws against cyberbullying, specifically. The only specific federal laws, are those that can be brought against protected classes, as mentioned in Section 1. Protected classes, such as those with disabilities, LGBT, or minorities should be versed in the following federal laws. School administrators and staff should obviously be equally aware.

Cyberbullying Education

Education and information is part of the answer to stopping cyberbullying. Teaching our kids how to respond to harassment properly, and teaching our kids how not to bully, is a big part of the solution. So, how soon is too soon to teach kids about cyberbullying?

Kid’s Health recommends framing discussions about bullying, in general, as early as Pre-K, in age-appropriate ways. Eyes On Bullying agrees, pointing out that, often, people overlook early childhood years in bullying prevention, because they underestimate both children’s intelligence, and their emotional maturity. Teach InCntrl promotes cyberbullying education for all students across all areas of the curriculum.

Bullying in very young children can look very different, however, with a strong tendency toward subtle bullying for girls and physical bullying for boys. In an example described in their book, Dr. Storey and Dr. Slaby describe a scenario in which a preschool girl, sitting at lunch begins a game in which she questions the children at her table, requiring them to raise their hands for affirmative responses with prompts like, “who likes X, Y, Z.” All of her prompts are things that all children would be sure to respond in the affirmative to, such as candy, movies and the like. But, when she gets to the end of her inquiries, she asks, “and who likes Madeline?” This is the beginning of social bullying.

hey suggest bullying education for children begin as early as preschool with social skills education, while they develop the language skills to express the feelings they are having. It’s important to catch bullying behaviors while they are happening and reappoint them into appropriate social interactions. Story time and circle, or morning meeting time, they suggest, is a good time to use examples and engagement to point out appropriate ways to interact with peers, and to define the line between teasing and taunting.

Additionally, they recommend the key life skills of empathy, problem solving and assertiveness to both address bullying, and to prevent becoming one. To learn empathy, they suggest that students learn to label their feelings and that they learn to compare themselves to others in a way that helps them appreciate their differences. Additionally, helping others to feel better teaches children to feel better about themselves, and helps reinforce the “golden rule.” Problem solving activities, such as team-work, and rudimentary what-if scenarios help preschoolers learn to deal with frustration in a safe environment to build their self-confidence. Assertion activities, such as teaching kids to keep their cool, and role-playing response scenarios, and learning when to ignore and when to get help are important tools for preschoolers to both build their self-esteem, and to understand the complexities of bullying scenarios.

Counseling and Resources for Victims

There are several, national anti-bullying resource centers set up to both provide information, and to direct victims, parents, and educators to required resources. For example, the Victims of Crime Resource Center Hotline is reachable at 1-800-Victims, and through their website. Additionally, The Cyberbullying Research Center provides links to not only report bullying on all major social media sites, but also information and resources to victims, nationwide. StopBullying.gov also provides access to both information and links to both national phone number databanks, and links to local counselors.

StompOutBullying is a national website with a 24-7 web-chat service for teens to find access to help for support about bullying. Trained counselors monitor the chat room to provide support and assistance to teens who are looking for advice. Additionally, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACP) website provides a clearinghouse of both information about bullying and cyberbullying, but also links to resources and links to counseling services in your child’s area.

 Cyberbullying on Social Media and  Popular Websites

New social media sites pop up seemingly every day. And, just as quickly fade away. Keeping up with what your tweens and tweens are doing online, and who they are doing it with, is important to helping them avoid both their being cyberbullied, or becoming one. For example, a newer(ish) social media site, Musical.ly has taken social media by storm, often outranking Snapchat and Instagram in the App Store. Musical.ly, a seemingly harmless video sharing site, where people can lip-sync to their favorite tunes, is no different than other social media sites, in terms of potential for cyberbullying or predatory danger. Privacy and user settings, and parental oversight can go a long way in preventing many dangerous, and harassment situations.

Facebook

While it seems, sometimes, that Facebook set the gold standard for social media, it seems that teens began migrating away from it sometime ago. Still, they have a bullying prevention hub, especially targeted at teens. In their hub is access to a PDF, which includes step-by-step instructions and conversation starter ideas for teens who have found themselves in harassment scenarios.

The first step, is always to unfriend someone who is bothering you, and block offensive people. Of course, if there are false accounts out there, this can become problematic, and like cutting the head off of a hydra, but start there. And, FB warns that blocking is reciprocal, so you won’t be able to see what they post about you anymore, which can make you feel antsy, wondering if, on their page, false information about you is spreading like wildfire, now that you can’t see it anymore. Still, FB warns that the best steps are to stay calm and not to retaliate. They suggest that if there is something you find particularly offensive, you can delete it from the areas of FB that you have access to, but warn to save things you may need as evidence, if required. Additionally, they provide scripts and prompts to start conversations with people about how to calmly approach online bullies.

Interestingly, the provide the opposite side of the scenario. They provide resources for the bully. They consider what it might be like to be approached by a victim, and be blindsided as a bully, perhaps not even aware that they’ve committed an offensive act. They provide advice for the bully and suggest the most appropriate behaviors if you have been told that you’ve done something offensive to another person. For example, they suggest that you take the other person’s feelings into account, before you get angry and offended, and that the first thing you should do is apologize.

Get access to the entire PDF here. There’s also an area with links and suggestions for parents.

YouTube

Block and Delete. The most common advice of any website is going to start with these simple instructions. If you are being bothered by “troll,” especially in an isolated incident, which, on a site like YouTube is the most likely scenario, the first place they advise starting is to delete offending comments, or to ask the user to do so, and block offensive users. YouTube does have specific polices against hate speech; for example, they do not allow violence or hate speech against anyone based on race or ethnic origin, relation, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity. They also have specific policies against setting up fake accounts, “Impersonation,” and any suspicion of such accounts should be reported immediately. YouTube also has very strict policies against Child Endangerment as it applies to depicting sex with minors, so sharing videos of underage children engaged in any sexual activity, is strictly prohibited and should absolutely be reported, especially as it pertains to cyberbullying situations. In these cases, being a bystander is against the law, not only against YouTube policy.

However, the rest of YouTube policy is a little greyer. For example, their policy regarding sexually explicit content is prohibitive when it comes to violent, humiliating or graphic fetish, but is inclusive when it comes to nudity when it is educational, documentary or artistic. Additionally, its graphic or violent content policy is essentially a free pass, so long as its journalistic, and especially if the title is descriptive and/or there is an especially clear warning to viewers.

Threats are taken seriously, and they caution that law enforcement should be engaged immediately; however. But, their policy on harmful or dangerous content, such as videos of drug use or of dangerous “challenges” such as the choking challenge, they deem allowable if the primary purpose is educational, documentary or scientific. Finally, they caution that the best way to avoid anything you don’t want to see is the block and delete button.

Instagram

Because of Instagram’s user settings, and communication settings, it’s particularly easy for cyberbullies to contact, and harass their victims, in various ways. For example, users can add cruel comments and hashtags to user’s photos, or create unflattering photos and attach them to a user’s photo/profile. Instagram has a reporting process for harassment and bullying.

Snapchat

Snapchat’s 10-second-and-it’s-gone makes it both easier, and more difficult for cyberbullies. It allows them to take incriminating photos, sometimes without the victim even realizing it, and send harassment without evidence lasting long enough to be traced. However, with quick knowledge of how to take a screenshot, a victim can track harassment, and there’s a way to stop the onslaught of constant messages. Snapchat has community guidelines, such as no pornography, and protecting someone’s privacy, such as not taking pics without someone else’s knowledge. And, Snapchat’s policy is no screenshots, despite their anti-bullying stance. It’s a nebulous arena. Still, they also have a reporting area; but also recommend a block first policy.

Snapchat does have policies to protect user’s privacy, and to prevent bullying. Primarily, to prevent cyberbullying, they do not allow for invasions of privacy, such as taking snaps of others without their knowledge. Additionally, they don’t allow for impersonation, much like YouTube, which means creating fake accounts, even to impersonate celebrities. Finally, they have a strict no-harassment policy, which means once someone has blocked you, you may not continue to harass them from another account, or from a new account. Their no-nudity policy, especially for those under 18 can contribute to a no-bullying environment by not allowing for embarrassing content, because it even prohibits sexually explicit drawings on otherwise benign snaps.

Twitter

According to both Buzzfeed News, and CIO, Twitter’s refusal to appropriately deal with cyberbullying and online abuse and harassment has drug the social media giant to near death. Twitter promises a revamp and an absolute focus on the issue. Their current advice starts with the same advice as the others: ignore, block and unfollow. They do have a reporting process on their website.

Skype

Skype’s online communities are a great way to meet and befriend all kinds of people, for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of interests; however, there are all kinds of ways to find trouble when the world is so big. Communities on Skype can often help police themselves, with members reporting to one another when they are having trouble, and using the block and ignore feature. But, like all other social media features, Skype also has a report feature, depending on which interface you are using.

Messenger or Other Forums

Messenger and other chat forums rely on a community standard of “knowing” who you are talking to, rather than primarily stranger interaction, such as YouTube. The best way to avoid harassment is to be engaged with friends and people you are comfortable with, not with strangers. However, like all teens and tweens, social groups change, and falling outs occur, which can spill over into an online community setting. Again, ignore, block and delete when there’s trouble. If there’s evidence, save it. If there’s serious trouble, report it.

Data and Statistics

Much can be drawn from the raw data provided by bullying surveys. The primary data-gatherers on this topic are the CDC, The National Center for Education Statistics, and The Cyberbullying Research Center. Each of these sources compiles and gathers separate, but equally important sets of data that give us vital information.

When looked at, over time, from 2007, through 2016, the rate of reported cyberbullying offenders has declined sharply from 19.1% to 12.0% of students reporting self-reporting; however, the rates also fluctuate significantly from year to year, sometimes as much as 5-7%. Cyberbullying.org compiles data from ten different studies to gather an average of roughly 15.8% students who reported cyberbullying others, across the 9-year study period, with a low of 11.5% reporting in 2009, with an especially low sample class size. Intriguingly, the study compilation shows a sharp decrease in bullies self-reporting in 2009, suggesting that cyber bullying education has been helpful, but then an uptick to outpace 2007 numbers in 2010, and nearly again in 2011. It’s baffling to educators to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, to prevent bullying, when numbers like this present themselves over long spaces of time.

Intriguingly, victimization rates are nearly double the self-reporting rates for bullies, which suggests that either bullies are bullying more than one victim, that victims feel victimized by actions that bullies don’t necessarily feel is bullying, or that bullies are under-reporting. And, unlike the chaotic rise and fall of the bully self-reporting, victimization rates seem on a steady climb since 2007, with the exception of two slight dips in 2010 and 2013. The average reporting rate for victims, compiled over ten studies from cyberbullying.org is 27.9% and includes cyber bullying in all forms, such as e-mail, in the classroom, and over other electronic media.

An interesting comparison to note is the difference between reported victimization rates between middle schoolers and lifetime victimization rates. The rate doubles (or even triples) in almost all cases. This suggest an almost “grace” period in middle school where educators might be able to reach students and target bullying education, before the problem erupts.

Cyber bullying does not appear to discriminate for gender. Unlike other types of bullying where, for example, physical aggression is more typically associated with males, and social aggression is more typically associated with females, cyber bullying is more equally distributed. Both genders appear to be equally associated with cyber bullying behaviors. The disassociated connection with screens makes it easier for both genders to engage with behaviors that they may not otherwise engage in, if they were faced with an individual, making it easier for both genders to engage in cyber bullying behaviors; it’s like it’s simultaneously happening to both a real, and a not-real person.

Subsequently, victims of cyberbullying are also, mostly, equally spread amongst gender. There’s a slightly larger number of reported lifetime female cyber bully victims, but in general, victims are equally spread between male and female, especially amongst the middle school population. This suggests, once again, that the magic moment to reach the student population with cyber bullying education is at the beginning of middle school.

According to cyberbullying.org, middle schoolers use the Internet for a wide variety of purposes, and in descending order, it’s first and foremost for online games and homework, and lastly for chat rooms. Having data like this helps educators fine-tune education programs and gear bullying messages for their students based on what they know their students will be using and where they might be encountering bullying messages.

 Conclusion and Recommendations

Cyber bullying is part of a complex puzzle that, if reduced, improves student performance and success. But, we cannot forget things like the value of parental involvement, drug and alcohol education, other education on other teen behaviors that can affect student life, like sex education. For example, according to the CDC, for example, 10% of teens (over the age of 12) have used illicit drugs in the past month. And, it’s easy to forget, but many students come to school without having eaten a decent meal; in states like Missouri, over 20% of homes have food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal comes from. Alas, cyber bullying is a very important part of a student’s success, but it’s not the only piece of their puzzle.

And, in fact, determining the other pieces, and addressing those, may help suss out the cyber bullying problem. If a student is being bullied for being so-called promiscuous, for example; or, if a student is being bullied because he wears second-hand clothes; or, if a student is being bullied for getting bad grades; it’s obvious that knowing students is helpful. Additionally, having the appropriate district, counseling, and support services is vital to student success in all cases. There is no “stop bullying,” or even “zero tolerance,” in most cases. It is not as simple as enforcing a consequence, or mending a fence; it requires support for the victim, and likely for the bully.

Additionally, based on evidence, bullying education in primary and middle school grades is vital in prevention. As we become more screen-dependent, our children will be versed earlier in technology. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ newly revised, and recently released, guidelines about screen time for young children, parents will continue to expose children to technology at younger ages, until they are practically programming satellites in the crib. If we are to expect our children to understand the limitless joy and knowledge that technology can bring, it is incumbent upon us to teach them the limitless responsibility that comes with it as well, including the responsibility they bear, as in all things, to not cause others pain.

 

 

50 Safest Colleges in America

When you go away to college or, better yet, send your child away for an advanced education, you want the peace of mind knowing that they are safe.  To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the 50 Safest Colleges in America.   The data to create this list was obtained from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, who keep statistics on campus crime.  Criteria for making this list were public and private 4-year universities in the U.S., with an enrollment of at least 5,000 students. Primarily online institutions were not included and most recent data available was for calendar years 2011-2013.

#1 Touro College

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Established in 1970, this independent university of over 19,000 students in New York City, NY was named after Jewish leaders Judah and Isaac Touro.  The school offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, and there were no on-campus crimes reported for Touro College.

#2 Northwest Florida State College

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With over 14,000 undergraduates enrolled, this state college in Niceville, FL is part of the Florida College System.  The 264-acre campus in the Ft. Walton Beach area of Florida’s Panhandle provides a variety of undergraduate degrees, and there were no on-campus crime incidents here.

#3 New York Institute of Technology

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A private research university founded in 1955, NYIT is located in New York City, NY and its main Old Westbury campus encompasses over 1,000 acres.  With over 12,000 students, there were no on-campus crime incidents reported at NYIT.

#4 Bellevue University

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Bellevue University is a private, non-profit university located in Bellevue, NE.  With an enrollment of over 10,000, the university has been operating since 1966 and is the 4th largest private college in Nebraska.  There were no on-campus crimes reported here.

#5 Saint Joseph’s College

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Established in 1916, this private liberal arts college offers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level in more than 25 areas.  Recognized repeatedly as among  “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News and World Report, the Brooklyn campus of over 5,000 students has no on-campus crimes reported.

#6 Hawaii Pacific University

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Located in Honolulu, HI, this private co-ed university of over 7,000 students was established in 1965.  There was just one on-campus burglary reported during the study period.

#7 Franklin University

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A private university in Columbus, OH, Franklin University was originally founded in 1902 through a sponsorship by the Columbus YMCA.  Now with almost 8,000 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs, its main campus had just one burglary reported during the study period.

#8 Governors State University

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Governors State University is a public university located in University Park, Ill, south of Chicago.  GSU was founded in 1969 and, as of 2014, went from just an upper-level university to one that offers undergraduate through doctorate level degrees. There was only one on-campus crime reported involving a vehicle.

#9 Saint Johns River State College

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St. Johns River State College is a member of the Florida College System and is located in Palatka, FL, on the state’s northeast coast.  The college has over 7,000 enrolled students and  is an accredited arts school.  There were just two on-campus crimes listed during the reporting period at this school.

#10 Colorado Christian University

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Colorado Christian University (CCU) is a private, interdenominational Christian liberal arts university of just over 5,000 students.  Located in Lakewood, CO, the school was founded in 1914 at the Denver Bible Institute and offers 45 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.  There were only two on-campus incidents during the reporting period.

#11 Wilmington University

Located in historic New Castle, Delaware, this private non-profit university has an enrollment of over 20,000 students.  Many degree programs are offered in its seven colleges at the undergraduate and graduate level.  There were just three on-campus crimes reported at this school.

#12 Regent University

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A private Christian university located in Virginia Beach, VA, Regent University was founded by Pat Robertson in 1977.  The university offers over 70 courses of study, including a School of Law and a School of Divinity.  There were three on-campus crimes reported at this university.

#13 University of Houston-Downtown

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UHD is a four-year state university in Houston, TX that is the second largest university in the Houston area.  The 14,000 students at UHD attend a 20 acre downtown campus, and UHD has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as No. 7 among top public universities.  Four on-campus crimes were reported at UHD during the reporting period.

#14 CUNY Brooklyn College

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With over 16,000 students, the senior college of the City University of New York in Brooklyn has been ranked multiple times by The Princeton Review as a top college for value.   This liberal arts college has five on-campus crimes reported during the period covered.

#15 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

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A member of the University System of Wisconsin, UW-La Crosse was founded in 1909 and offers over 100 degree programs in its five schools.  The school as over 10,00 students enrolled and had five on-campus crimes to report.

#16 Metropolitan State University

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Also known as Metro State, this public university located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota has over 11,000 students enrolled.  There are over 70 degree programs at several academic levels. The school had six on-campus crimes reported.

#17 Indiana University-Southeast

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Located in New Albany, Indiana, the Indiana University Southeast is a part of the Indiana University system and is located in the Louisville, KY metropolitan area.  There are over 55 degree programs at this school of 6,800 enrolled students.  Six on-campus crimes were reported at this school.

#18 University of Michigan-Dearborn

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One of two satellite campuses of the University of Michigan, UM-Dearborn has over 9,000 students and offers over 100 degree programs.  In 2014, UM-D was ranked the 36th best university in the Midwest by U.S. News.  There were seven on-campus crimes reported here during the reporting period.

#19 College of Central Florida

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Located in Ocala, FL, this public state college is a member of the Florida College System and offers bachelor’s degrees in several areas.  With over 18,000 students enrolled, there were seven on-campus crimes reported here.

#20 University of California-Merced

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The tenth and newest of the University of California campuses, UC Merced, is located in Central California.  The campus owns over 7,000 acres of land and has a current enrollment of over 6,000 students pursuing a choice of 21 majors.  There were seven on-campus crimes reported here.

#21 Farmingdale State College

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Located on Long Island in East Farmingdale, NY, Farmingdale State College is part of the SUNY system and is a public college of the State University of New York. With over 8,000 enrolled students, the schools offers 29 baccalaureate degrees, and there were just eight on-campus reported at this school.

 

#22 CUNY New York City College of Technology

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Located in downtown Brooklyn’s City Triangle, City Tech has over 17,000 students enrolled in its 66 baccalaureate programs.  This public college had nine on-campus incidents reported.

#23 The New School

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The New School is a private, non-profit progressive university located in Greenwich Village, New York City.   With over 9,000 students enrolled, the school has a rich history in its open and intellectual teaching environment.  The New School had just nine on-campus crimes reported.

#24 Duquesne University

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Duquesne University is private Catholic university located in Pittsburgh, PA.  Founded in 1878, the school now has over 10,000 students in its graduate and undergraduate programs.  There were just nine on-campus incidents reported here.

#25 Biola University

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Originally founded in 1908 as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Biola University is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts school in southern California.  With just over 6,000 enrolled students, this university in La Mirada, CA had nine on-campus crimes reported.

#26 CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

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The Baruch College of the City University of New York system is located in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan in New York City.  With over 17,000 enrolled students, the school offers undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. programs.  There were ten on-campus crimes reported here during the reporting period.

#27 Savannah College of Art and Design

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Located in Savannah, GA this private, non-profit university was founded in 1978 and has over 11,000 students enrolled in its eight schools. The school is ranked Number 1 for Interior Design by DesignIntelligence, and there were ten on-campus crimes reported at SCAD.

#28 New Jersey City University

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A public university, NJCU is located in Jersey City, NJ and serves over 9,000 enrolled students in its three colleges, offering more than 65 degree programs.  Considered a liberal arts school, NJCU had eleven crimes reported on-campus.

#29 Lewis University

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A private Roman Catholic and Lasallian university located in Romeoville, Ill., Lewis University brings more than 80 undergraduate and 22 graduate programs to its 6,800 enrolled students.  There were eleven on-campus crimes reported here.

#30 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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A private research university, WPI is located in Worcester, Mass and is an applied sciences and technical arts school.  Founded in 1865, WPI was one of the United States’ first engineering and technology universities.  Just eleven on-campus crimes were reported here.

#31 University of Maryland-Baltimore

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Founded in 1807, UMB is the original campus of the University System of Maryland has some of the oldest professional schools of dentistry, law, pharmacy, social work and nursing in the nation.  With over 6,000 enrolled students, there were eleven on-campus crimes reported here.

#32 Truman State University

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Located in Kirksville, Missouri Truman State University is a public liberal arts and sciences university with an enrollment of over 6,000 students.  The school offers 48 undergraduate and 9 graduate programs, and there eleven crimes reported on-campus.

#33 Colorado School of Mines

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Located in Golden, CO, CSM a public teaching and research university devoted to engineering and applied sciences.  With an enrollment of 5,600 students, CSM was ranked 75th in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best National Universities” ranking. There were eleven on-campus crimes reported here.

#34 Indiana Wesleyan University

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Headquartered in Marion, Indiana, IWU is a private, evangelical Christian liberal arts university that is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church denomination. The largest private university in Indiana, there are over 15,000 students enrolled here and twelve on-campus crimes were reported at IWU.

#35 Michigan Technological University

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Also referred to as MTU or Michigan Tech, this is a public research university located in Houghton, Michigan.  Rated among the “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review, there are over 7,000 students enrolled here, and just twelve on-campus crimes were reported.

#36 Worcester State University

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Since 2010, this liberal arts and sciences school in Worcester, Mass has been a part of the state university system.   Now with an enrollment of over 6,000 students in its graduate and undergraduate programs, the school continues to grow and reported just twelve crimes on-campus.

#37 Chicago State University

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Located in Chicago, Ill., this state university was founded in 1867 and has an enrollment of over 7,000 students.  Its five colleges offer over 60 degree programs, and there were twelve crimes on-campus reported here.

#38 Missouri Baptist University

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Located in western St. Louis County in Creve Coeur, Missouri, Missouri Baptist University is a private evangelical university with an enrollment of just over 5,000 students.  Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in eight areas, and there were twelve on-campus crimes reported during the reporting period.

#39 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

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This public university in Steven Point, Wisconsin is part of the University of Wisconsin system and has an enrollment of over 9,000 students.  The school offers baccalaureate and master’s degrees in several areas and reported thirteen on-campus crimes.

#40 Indiana University-Northwest

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IU Northwest is located in Gary, Indiana and is a regional university campus in the Indiana University system.  Established in 1963, the school has over 6,300 enrolled students and reported thirteen crimes on-campus.

#41 College of Staten Island CUNY

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With over 14,000, CSI is a four-year senior college in the City University of New York System, located on Staten Island, NY.   The school offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences, and there were just fourteen on-campus crimes reported here.

#42 Winona State University

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The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, WSU is a public university located in Winona, Minnesota.  With an enrollment of over 9,000 students, the school offers over 80 programs of study.  There were fourteen on-campus crimes reported at WSU.

#43 University of the Incarnate Word

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A private co-ed Catholic university located in San Antonio, TX, UIW was founded in 1881 and sits on a 154-acre campus.   There are over 9,900 students enrolled in this school that offers baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degrees.  There were fourteen crimes reported on-campus at UIW.

#44 Suffolk University

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A private, non-sectarian university located in downtown Boston, Mass. Suffolk University has an enrollment of over 10,000 students, and some of its MBA programs are ranked among the top in the country.  Suffolk University had fourteen on-campus crimes during the reporting period.

#45 Dixie State University

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A public university located in St. George, Utah, DSU has over 8.500 enrolled students and offers more than 150 academic programs.   There were just fourteen on-campus crimes reported at DSU.

#46 Northern Kentucky University

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Located in Highland Heights, KY, just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati, NKU is a public, co-ed university that is primarily a liberal arts school.  With an enrollment of over 15,000 students, there were just fifteen on-campus crimes reported at NKU.

#47 The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

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A public university in the New Jersey state system, Stockton University is located in Galloway Township, New Jersey and has an enrollment of over 8,500 students.  Stockton University had fifteen on-campus crime incidents during the reporting period.

#48 Adelphi University

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Located in Garden City, New York, Adelphi University is a private, nonsectarian university that is the oldest higher education institute on Long Island. With over 7,800 enrolled students, the school was ranked #153 among National Universities by U.S. News and World Report.  There were fifteen crimes reported on-campus at Adelphi University.

#49 University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

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Also known as UAFS, this is a public university located in Fort Smith, Arkansas that is part of the University of Arkansas System.  UAFS is the fifth largest university in the state, with over 7,500 enrolled students and had fifteen on-campus crimes reported.

#50 University of New England

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Located in Biddeford, Maine, UNE is an independent, non-profit university that was founded in 1831 and has over 8,000 enrolled students. UNE has the only medical school in the state of Maine and there were just fifteen crimes reported on campus here.

 

 

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35 Heinous Craigslist Crimes

Photo courtesy of espensorvik on Flickr

Photo courtesy of espensorvik on Flickr

The information age comes with countless advantages, streamlining communication and allowing people to connect instantaneously.  In the past, several contacts and coordination were often required to get people on the same page, but today mobile phones and computer technology link us at all times. In business, deals can be conducted in real-time and global economics benefit from our ability to stay connected in so many different ways.  But the access created by so many forms of communication also crosses privacy boundaries, and sometimes compromises our ability to insulate ourselves from undesirable elements. Social networking, for example, puts people at risk when managed improperly. That’s why when you try and hire someone, you should use EmploymentBackgroundCheck.com  And local advertising sites like Craigslist literally open the door for strangers to come into our lives.  Safe practices aside, Craigslist crimes are real threats – just ask the unsuspecting victims.

1. The Mentor Murders

Most teens look up to respected elders, admiring them for their accomplishments and abilities, but this twisted plot brought a grown man and his protégé together for all the wrong reasons.  Brogan Rafferty was impressionable enough to participate in a crime spree hatched on Craigslist,  participating willingly in the affair.  Along with his mentor, Richard Beasley, Rafferty placed ads on Craigslist seeking laborers to work on a fictitious Ohio ranch.  Instead of employment, respondents were murdered and robbed.  The duo successful snuffed-out three job-seekers, attempting to kill a fourth man who escaped.  The men were arrested after he went to the police with the outrageous story.  Despite claiming he was coerced, Brogan Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison, the maximum penalty for his crime.  He was a minor at the time of the killings, so the death penalty was not on the table.  Richard Beasley, the demented mentor, was not as lucky.  He was sentenced to death in April, 2013 for the Craigslist murders.

2. Forced Prostitution

College students are always looking for some extra cash, but Tamla Hutchins would not willingly prostitute herself to get it.  Instead, she was lured into forced Craigslist prostitution by a nefarious would-be pimping duo named Carlton Simons and Shenett Reevey.  According to the casework, the pair promised the student an opportunity to meet famous stars like P-Diddy and the rapper Lil John.  Instead, she was forced to prostitute herself using Craigslist ads.  The 2007 crime brought the victim from her home in North Carolina to Queens New York where the plot unfolded.  For his role, Carlton Simmons was sentenced to six years in prison.

3. Donna Jou Disappearance

Some Craigslist crimes go unsolved, partly because of the nature of the site.  Often, one-on-one meetings are arranged on Craigslist, which is never a good idea.  In the case of Ms. Jou, a man has already confessed to involuntary manslaughter and served a portion of the 5-year term he received for the crime.  According to John Steven Burgess, Donna Jou responded to his Craigslist ad and joined him for cocaine and heroin before dying at his home.  When he woke to find her dead, he panicked and threw her body into the ocean.  The truth of the account is suspect, and Burgess has already been released after serving a few years in prison.  In fact, Burgess has since been arrested after again using Craigslist to lure women to his home.

4. Katherine Ann Olson Murder

Responding to a Craigslist ad for a babysitter put Katherine Olson in touch with Amy, a mother needing childcare from 10:30 – 5:00.  The details were set before Ms. Olson reported to work at a split-level home in Savage.  Once there, she was coaxed into an upper area of the home and murdered in cold blood.  Michael Anderson, her killer, was a 19 year old man with poor social skills.  He killed Ms. Olson with a .357 caliber handgun, before dragging her body down the stairs and tying her up. The motive for the killing is largely unknown, though Anderson received the mandatory life without parole sentence.

5. Philip Markoff Craigslist Killer

The highly publicized saga of the Craigslist Killer involved charges stemming from the death of Julissa Brisman, as well as two additional assaults carried out on women responding to Craigslist ads.  The case drew scrutiny for the unlikely perpetrator, who was a pre-med student and seemingly normal chap.  As it turns out, Mr. Markoff had a dark side, displaying sexual deviance and other hidden irregularities.  But perversion is not thought to be the primary motives for the assaults.  Rather, Mr. Markoff appears to have been in dire straights financially, afraid to reveal the situation to his fiancé.  Markoff took his own life in 2010, while serving a life sentence in prison.

6. Raped Maid

Michael Delgado called a maid he found on Craigslist to clean his home, but evidence pointed to a different motive for bringing her in.  According to the 42-year old maid that came to his home, Delgado was little more than an opportunistic Craigslist rapist.  Once there, she claims to have been raped for over an hour, leading to false imprisonment, assault and rape charges against Delgado.  Tried at the end of 2012, Mr. Delgado’s jury ended in deadlock, failing to convict or acquit him on the six felony charges he faced.  He will be retried on at least some of the charges.

7. Baby For Sale

Paul Marquez probably looked over the ‘for sale’ section for quite awhile before trying to sell a baby on Craigslist.  The internet swap meet does not maintain a section for human trafficking.  Mr. Marquez posted the ad out of irritation with his newfound girlfriend who mothered the child.  According to the complaint, he asked $100 for the infant because it was “on his nerves”.  The Craigslist ad was flagged and removed, but the perseverant Marquez reposted the offer.  A responder was given the actual mother’s phone number, who then called police to report Marquez.  several charges were levied, including child endangerment.

Photo by izzymunchted on Flickr

Photo by izzymunchted on Flickr

8. Wine Snob Beating

Seeking the finer things in life is to be admired, but pursuing high-end wine from a discount Craigslist posting carried unanticipated risks for one wine aficionado.  When Quy Duc Nguyen showed up to purchase a handful of rare bottles, he got more than he bargained for.  Traveling all the way from coast to coast, his arrival was tainted by a beating and robbery that left him with sour grapes.

9. Phone Home Shooting

Jonathan Clements used Craigslist to advertise his need for a new mobile phone.  When he set up a meeting with Alexander Lyons, he expected a routine $95 transaction the men agreed upon.  Following safe protocols, the meeting was arranged for a public gas station where safety would not be an issue for the men.  Lyons pretended to be lost though, and instead was directed to Mr. Clements location, his Aunt’s house.  Mr. Lyons was prepared for violence, and soon shot the unsuspecting buyer with a semi-automatic handgun.  Mr. Clements died at the hospital a short time later.  A life sentence was handed-down to Lyons, and the accomplice who furnished the weapon was also charged with murder.

10. Dao Xiong Auto Ad Killer

Craigslist is widely used for selling cars and motorcycles, so meet-ups are scheduled frequently.  St Paul native Youa Ty Lor used the listing service to advertise his Nissan for sale.  Unfortunately, a car thief was trolling the wires looking for victims.  Mr. Lor agreed to meet Dao Xiong for a test drive, but Xiong reportedly never intended to buy the vehicle.  He claims to have been interested only in stealing it, but his plans went awry when Mr. Lor was killed with a forty caliber semi-auto handgun.  The murder weapon and telephone records  quickly tied Xiong to the crime, leading to his arrest and conviction for the killing.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

11.  John Katehis S&M Killer

When George Weber placed an ad on Craigslist, he was seeking a partner for a sex-related meet-up.  The respondent, who later agreed to a sexual encounter for $60, was a twisted Satanist and S&M fetishist.  He had a particular preoccupation with knives, which he eventually used to stab Mr. Weber to death.  More than 50 stab wounds were present on his body and neck, inflicted by the sixteen year-old killer.  Katehis was charged with second-degree murder, as an adult.

12.  Long Island Killer

Answering ads for sex is the standard approach for this Craigslist criminal, known as the Long Island Serial Killer. The unidentified perpetrator is though to be responsible for as many as 15 murders in the GilGo Beach area.  Over the course of several years, 10 bodies have been recovered from the area, each linked to the killer.  While theories abound, it is certain the killer preys on prostitutes and women advertising sex on Craigslist.

13.  Boat Buyer Assault

Ronald Kroll used Craigslist for its intended function, placing an ad to sell his boat.  After communicating with an interested buyer, Darin Leutbecker, by phone, a test-drive was arranged and the men met at the boat.  The 37 year-old Kroll fought back after Leutbecker pulled a gun on him, resulting in shots fired.  The men struggled in the boat, before falling into the water, where Kroll eventually remained as his boat was stolen.  Kroll was able to inflict some damage of his own, stabbing his attacker with a pocket knife before he fled.

14. Diamond Deal Killers

James Sanders had a diamond ring to sell, so he placed an ad on Craigslist.  When four individuals responded for a meeting, Sanders directed them to his home.  The Edgewood, WA man was told the ring was to be a Mother’s Day gift, but once inside his home, the group held Sanders and his family captive.  As he struggled to protect his children, he was shot dead by the attackers.  All four criminals were captured and tried, including 24 year-old Clabon Berniard who received a life sentence.

15.  Auto Sale Kidnapping

Selling his BMW was all Alexander Filatov had in mind when he placed an ad on Craigslist.  Travis Landry, who responded to the posting had different ideas for Filatov, including a 400+ mile trip in his own trunk.  After meeting at Landry’s location, Filatov agreed to a test drive, and the men conducted what appeared to be a legitimate transaction.  After accepting payment, Filatov opened the trunk for Landry, who asked to see it.  With threats of violence, Landry forced him into the trunk of the BMW, before taking-off on a 450 mile drive.  Filatov was not harmed, and his help led police to Landry who was later captured and tried.

16.  Work Shirt Robbery

Craigslist does not discriminate among criminals, so it is not surprising that the site aids robberies too.  A particularly clever criminal posted an ad for day laborers, instructing them exactly how to dress for the job.  Ten men reported to the designated location, dressed as instructed.  As they waited for their job assignments, another man emerged in the same outfit.  He sprayed an armored guard with an irritant and ran off with a bag of money.  The men served as distractions, as the perpetrator jumped into the nearby river.  Despite the creative approach, Anthony Curcio was arrested and tried for the robbery.

17.  Ellis T. Jones Craigslist Crimes

Ellis Jones played football at San Jose State, where his coach said he was not a disciplinary concern.  A different story unfolded as Jones was linked to a robbery plot involving Craigslist.  The man used classified ads to lure multiple victims to his location, before Tasing them or threatening them with a gun.  The motive was robbery, which did not end well for Jones who was eventually removed from the football team and brought-up on 13 charges of Craigslist wrongdoing.

18.  Killer: Alejandro Hernandez Rivera

Prostitution advertising is not limited to women on Craigslist.  Alejandro Rivera was a male prostitute advertising regularly online, when he met sixty-six year-old Theodore Neff in 2008.  The retired bank employee was a collector of rare flutes, which Rivera targeted to steal.  in the end, Rivera strangled Neff to death, before setting his house on fire and taking off with his expensive instruments.  Attempting to sell the flutes back to their maker, rivera exposed himself and was arrested for the murder.

19.  Baby Killer

After posting an ad on Craigslist for baby clothes, Korena Roberts met Heather Snively.  the two became fast friends, sharing what was thought to be mutual pregnancies.  The grisly case took a terrible turn when Roberts, who was not pregnant at all, carried out her unseemly plot.  the woman killed her friend, beating her to beat with a police baton, before removing the unborn baby from her womb.  Both victims died, for which Roberts received a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.  During the investigation, it was revealed that Roberts had attempted the scheme previously without success.

20.  Weyrick Murder

Sarah Weyrick was in dire straits financially, so she placed an ad on Craigslist to make some money.  her ad was found in the casual encounters section by a 31 year-old man with grisly intentions.  Some time after meeting with Phillip E. Bolden, Weyrick’s body was discovered in a burned-out vehicle.  She had been stabbed to death, with multiple knife wounds to her neck.  The car she was placed in was set ablaze to conceal the evidence, but the killer was eventually caught.

21.  Len Dykstra Craigslist Sex Crimes

Former professional baseball player Len Dykstra has previously been convicted of grand theft auto, resulting from a scam wherein he bought cars with fake paperwork.  The sports star turned criminal has had other run-ins with the law too, including a Craigslist crime spree involving sexual misconduct.  Dykstra admitted to his crimes, which are essentially the same in each instance.  He would call-in Craigslist advertisers for help around his home, only to inform them that the “help” included massaging him.  Several women came forward, including one claiming he held her at knifepoint, forcing her to rub him. Dyksta served his sentence for the Craigslist crimes concurrently with his auto theft stint, released in the summer of 2013.

22.  iPhone Robbery

When a buyer responded to a Craigslist ad offering a box of iPhones for sale, he got more than he bargained for.  According to the complaint, the Seattle man was instructed to meet the seller at a business location where he said he worked.  Once there, the buyer got into a car driven by the seller’s associate to complete the deal.  Given a box said to contain the phones, he set about getting the 10K in cash out of his trunk.  Instead of closing the sale, the seller pulled a gun and demanded the money.  The box the man was given contained only scraps of metal and trash.

23. Sister Act

Two Raleigh, North Carolina sisters hatched a robbery plot using Craigslist as their trap.  The offer was straightforward – two smartphones for $1100, according to the ad the girls placed.  When a Raleigh man showed up to close the deal, things got a little out of hand.  Instead of the smartphones, Sherida Quanette Bullock and Acqua Bullock produced a handgun, demanding the cash from the would-be buyer, Ibrahima Diouf.  When the man fled instead of giving up the money, the sisters unleashed a hail of bullets in his direction.  The Bullocks were each charged with robbery, as was a third woman, Sherie Brooks, who was eventually tied to the crime.

24.  Minister Goes Above and Beyond

Hiring a minister to conduct your wedding ceremony shouldn’t put you at risk, but apparently when Craigslist is used to find a pastor, anything can happen.  After officiating at their wedding, one Portland minister made-off with the couples’ wedding gifts.  Since the pair were remodeling, a majority of their gifts came as Home Depot gift cards.  The pastor was easy to locate by tracing the numbers on the cards, which led police to security videos showing the man redeeming them.

25.  Girlfriend Revenge

Breaking up is hard to do, but getting even was all that mattered for one Craigslist poster who used the site to seek revenge on his ex.  The depraved plan was to post an ad on Craigslist seeking a rape encounter, directing respondents to his ex-girlfriend’s home.  Unbelievably, he posted the ad and within a week a man broke-in to the girls home and raped her.  The former boyfriend, Jebidiah Stipe, communicated with the rapist even after the ad had been taken down, providing the woman’s home address and additional details about her “fantasy”.  Stipe was arrested, as well as the attacker Ty McDowell.

26.  Stripper Strike

Hiring strippers for bachelor parties is a tradition to some, but for two would-be strippers it was a one-sided affair.  A Huntington Beach man, doing his diligence as the best man, hired two women from a Craigslist ad to strip at a party for the groom.  Instead, the ladies collected their $500 fee and then bolted without stripping at all.  When the men tried to stop them, they were pepper sprayed and punched in the face.  The women escaped with the cash.

27.  House for Sale

The deal of the century presented itself to two Oregon women who had a chance to buy a luxury home for pennies on the dollar.  The deal they found on Craigslist appeared too good to be true, but the pair, Elizabeth Dorscht and Chandler Cook forked over the down payment anyway.  Not surprisingly, the house turned out not to be for sale, and the Craigslist poster disappeared with their money.  Lynne Sisto eventually pled guilty to orchestrating the creative scheme.

28.  Transgender Assault

Edward Terry Wallace responded to a Craigslist ad placed by three transgender ladies who identified themselves as such in the post.  The Chula Vista man reported to the trio’s home and proceeded to rape and beat them.  He used a stun gun to control them and robbed each of their cash, before sodomizing at least one of them.  For his crimes, Mr. Wallace received a 12 year sentence for sexual battery and robbery of the three.

29.  Sex Trafficking Trio

Selling sex is illegal in most places, but prostituting kids is in a whole different class of bad judgment.  Nonetheless, three enterprising Craigslist users managed to launch a child prostitution ring on the site.  Surprisingly, one of the perpetrators was a woman named Jessica King.  Along with her co-conspirators, Jordan Arnold and Christopher Black, King posted pictures of girls in lingerie on Craigslist.  The photos lured johns who hired the young girls for sex.  All three pled guilty to coercion and enticement of a juvenile into prostitution.  Sentences for each defendant were around five years apiece.

30.  Rape My Wife, Please

The bonds of holy matrimony didn’t stop an Idaho man from posting ads on Craigslist seeking men to rape his wife.  The twisted approach included communicating with the men who responded, eventually steering more than one of them to her home.  When one man tried to assault her, the wife grabbed her gun, discharging the weapon.  Police responding to the gunfire were brought up to speed about the depraved plot.  The husband admitted to his crime and faced the music in a courtroom.

31.  No Sex, No Money

A Texas man has been acquitted of killing a woman he met on Craigslist.  the man responded to an ad for sex, arranging to pay the woman $150 for the act.  He lived up to his part of the bargain, but she took the money without performing her end of the deal.  As the two argued over the cash, the woman, Lenora Fargo was shot to death.  In  a bizarre legal twist, the act was ruled self-defense because the shooter, Ezekiel Gilbert, was trying to recover stolen property at the time the shots were fired.

32.  Steven Lewis Kills iPhone Buyer

Lots of Craigslist crimes involve electronics deals gone bad, including the tragic shooting of Mr. Aung Thu Bo.  Responding to an ad for an iPhone for sale, Bo and his girlfriend met innocently with Steven Lewis.  But Lewis is a convicted felon who ended up taking the unsuspecting Bo’s life.  Despite trying to cooperate with the thief, Aung Thu Bo was shot dead in cold blood.  Lewis eventually confessed to the crime, claiming the gun went off accidentally.

Photo by jason lander group on Flickr

Photo by jason lander group on Flickr

33. Marine Shot Over Necklace

Lt. Col Karl Trenker stood-in for his fiancée who had posted a Craigslist ad to sell a gold necklace.  Trenker went to meet a potential buyer in her place, but ran into some trouble.  Despite meeting in an open area, the two men posing as buyers decided to steal the necklace and take-off.  As he pursued them on foot, Trenker was shot multiple times by one of the men.  Jeff Steele fired on Trenker as he chased him, striking him at least three times.  Using his military training, the 48 year old Marine plugged the wounds with his fingers, possibly saving his own life.

34.  Tiara Pool Murder

Tiara Pool’s killer responded to her Craigslist ad, prompting a meeting between the two.  They left the public meeting place to return to Pool’s apartment, where she was brutally murdered.  Her killer, David Sparre was 19 years old at the time of the crime, stabbing Poll more than 80 times.  The deranged Sparre was sentenced to death for the crime.  In a twisted jailhouse letter, Sparre told his ex-girlfriend that he would like to kill again.

35.  Daniel Cook ATV Killing

Daniel Cook and his girlfriend were interested in looking at an all-terrain vehicle offered for sale on Craigslist, so they traveled to Philadelphia to meet with the seller.  After separating Cook from his girlfriend and another traveling companion, Thomas Coffee robbed and killed him.  According to the girl, they were waiting for Cook to rejoin them when two gunshots rang-out.  The 23 year-old Willow Grove man was eventually arrested and charged with murder for posing as a Craigslist seller and taking Cook’s life.

 

 

15 Most Outrageous Bank Robberies of All Time

Clever thieves find all kinds of ways to get their hands on bank reserves, donning outrageous disguises and crafting elaborate strategies.   Throughout history, particularly brazen criminals have logged spectacular thieving efforts across the globe.  Success rates vary, but crime generally does not pay.  Public interest in robberies is directly related to the entertainment value provided by the crooks.  Interesting approaches, high paydays, and outright successes are embraced by observers, who root for creative criminals that beat the system.  Robin Hood effect aside, robbing banks is hard work – just ask the would-be gangsters on our list of outrageous bank robberies.

Photo by Ell Brown on Flickr

Photo by Ell Brown on Flickr

1. Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery

Spectacular robberies are especially captivating when criminals heist huge sums of money or large amounts of valuable goods.  The $98 million taken in this 1987 robbery ranks it among the top dollar-amounts ever stolen.  To pull-off the heist, mastermind Valerio Viccei and an associate entered the security deposit facility pretending they wanted to rent a security box.  Once guards and security personnel were vulnerable, the men overpowered them and took control of the bank.  After putting up a closed sign and letting-in their helpers, the men proceeded to clean out the safety deposit boxes.

The strongarm robbers did not get away with their crime.  Viccei was arrested and jailed, but due to laws in Italy where he was imprisoned, he led most of his life with lots of liberties.  He died under suspicious circumstances as police were sure his next plot was underway.  Like many criminals, Viccei led a high-profile life of luxury, which led to his downfall.  Before committing the Knightsbridge robbery in England, he was already wanted for dozens of bank robberies in his native Italy. Interestingly, Viccei befriended one of the law enforcement officers responsible for his arrest, frequently corresponding with him while incarcerated.

2. Dunbar Armored Robbery

Armored trucks ferry countless sums of money between banks and financial institutions.  In 1997, an employee of the Dunbar Armored Company decided to make a play for one of the largest cash heists in U.S. history.  The mastermind behind the crime, Allen Pace, was an inspector for the company who used his time there to plan a robbery.

With the help of five friends and passkeys required to access the facility, Pace took control of the depot on a busy cash night.  The men simply overpowered each driver as they came in with trucks full of cash, transferring the take to their own rented truck. Iin the end, the men loaded-up nearly $19 million dollars before high-tailing it.  the men managed to elude capture for years, making efforts to conceal their wealth.  A group of clues eventually led to one of the members of the crew, which started the whole case unraveling.  The men were eventually sentenced to terms ranging from seven to twenty-four years.  Most of the money was never recovered, including some that was burned to avoid being traced through sequentially numbered bills.

3. Brink’s – MAT Warehouse

One of the most notorious heists ever committed, the Brink’s-MAT robbery targeted the company’s bank facility at Heathrow Airport.  The conspirators got a little more than they bargained for, intending to steal a few million in cash.  Upon arrival, the six-man crew was greeted by nearly $30 million dollars worth of gold bullion, diamonds and cash.

The job was an inside effort, in part, aided by the cooperation of security guard Anthony Black.  The man is also responsible for the downfall of the group, as he was the one to turn over his fellow conspirators.  Once inside, the men disabled the remaining guards by dousing them in gasoline and threatening to set them ablaze if they failed to cooperate.  The crooks made off with 3 and one-half tons of gold, most of which has never been recovered.  Of the six original thieves, only two were ever sentenced for the crime, and the restitution for the entire amount stolen – nearly $28 million, was placed on a single perpetrator Micky McAvoy. Survivors associated with the crime are said to be cursed by it.

4. Dog Day Afternoon

Al Pacino portrayed a memorable bank robber in Hollywood’s Dog Day Afternoon, a depiction similar to a real life bank hold-up.  In August, 1972 two men, John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile, undertook an infamous bank robbery plot that didn’t end well for the pair.  The poorly planned heist was a crime of passion, executed without basic precautions.  For example, the men were not disguised, leaving them vulnerable to identification later.  To make matters worse, they made no effort to conceal their fingerprints.

The men were homosexual, adding a further layer of notoriety to the crime, which actually drew gay rights activists to the crime scene.  the bumbling robbers spent too long looting the bank, so the police were able to resond and surround them.  The ensuing hostage stand-off provides the subject matter for the movie, in which Wojtowicz negotiates for help escaping. The poorly executed crime was too nerve-racking for the eighteen year-old Naturile, who was eventually shot dead by the police.  For his role in the crime, John Wojtowicz received a prison sentence totaling more then 27 years. Wojtowicz served 6 years of his sentence.  Although the film takes liberties with the story, most of the events depicted are true.  Some of the money given to Wojtowicz for his story was used by his partner to get sex reassignment surgery.

5. Northern Bank Robbery

This cash robbery stands as one of the largest takes in Ireland’s history.  There have been money-laundering arrests associated with the crime, but it remains unsolved in large part.  There is speculation that the IRA was involved in the heist, but all factions of the organization have denied involvement.

The Donegal Square headquarters of the Northern Bank was robbed in December of 2004, giving up nearly thirty-million pounds sterling to the thieves. First, the gang of criminals gained entry into the homes of two prominent bank officials.  Holding their family members hostage, the men were forced to participate in the robbery.  The timing of the robbery, before Christmas, gave the criminals access to a cash storage facility loaded with currency bound for the holiday shopping season. With the help of the terrified bank staffers, the gang was able to make off with millions worth of bank notes.  Since the robbery, bits and pieces of the haul have been recovered, and some individuals have been charged with attempting to launder proceeds from the robbery, but the investigation continues to this day.

6. Cheddington Mail Van Raid (Great Train Robbery) of 1963

An English train robbery intercepting a Royal Mail coach yielded a sizable pay day for the brazen gang behind the robbery.  As much as 2.6 million pounds was seized as the men took-over control of the train.  The coach was travelling between Glasgow and London, when the men engineered the track signals to facilitate their crime.  One of the men on the crew was an experienced train robber, so the men had his abilities to guide them.  After boarding the train and disabling the conductor with blows to the head, the men were able to gain control.

Bruce Reynolds, one of the group’s core members, along with 15 other men, concocted the robbery scheme including several of the gang’s central figures.  After gaining control, the men unhitched the cars they did not need and proceeded up the track to their waiting getaway truck.  Two tons of mail bags were loaded into the truck before the crew departed to a hideout seventeen miles away.  The crew divied up the take and hurriedly left their safe house as the area heated-up with police.  Their downfall ensued when a member of the gang failed to do his part by burning down the hideaway.  Using clues left at the hideout, investigators eventually caught up with a dozen conspirators, some of whom were given jail sentences of 30 years each.

Photo by colin.brown on Flickr

Photo by colin.brown on Flickr

7. Dar El Salaam Bank

This modern-day heist came amid turmoil in the Middle East, allowing guards at a Baghdad bank to walk away with a staggering sum of money.  In 2007 a group of insiders worked together to orchestrate one of the richest heists in history, bilking an Iraq bank out of an estimated $282 million in United States currency.

There are still mysteries surrounding the crime, which left the private banking facility reeling after several prison guards banded together to pull off the heist. The guards, who slept nights at the bank, disappeared along with the money, singling them out as suspects immediately.  The guards wre arrested quickly, and most of the money was recovered.  The incident is reminiscent of a move pulled by Sadaam Hussein in 2003, when he used his son to withdraw nearly one billion dollars from the bank before his collapse.  Most of the money was later found in the walls of the despot’s palace, but hundreds of millions have yet to be recovered.  While it is more of a “fleecing” than a traditional robbery, Hussein’s approach was no less criminal than that of the guards at the private Baghdad bank.

8. Cornerstone Bank Waco, Texas

Some bank robberies involve huge sums of money and cleverly devised plots, requiring intricate coordination between multiple participants.  Others are less complicated.  While giant paydays are the stuff of bank robbing legend, it is not only the dollars attached which make robberies outrageous.  Sometimes the motive, the amateurish crime itself, or the ridiculous follow-up create the true spectacle surrounding a crime.  In the Waco case of the Cornerstone bank, it is the antics of the unskilled criminal which propel the bank robbery into the outrageous category.

Hannah Sabata, a troubled 19 year old girl, had a beef with the government for taking away her child and charging her with neglect.  She also had mounting debt with no means to pay-up.  Hannah’s solution was not a summer job, but instead an impromptu bank robbery.  The young lady first stole a car to use for her getaway, before appearing at the bank to demand money.  With threats of violence, she convinced the teller to hand over the loot, which she successfully fled with.  Full of herself, and proud of the effort, she promptly logged on to her YouTube account to brag about her exploits.  So specific were her amateur videos that she showed the key to the car she stole and the stack of money taken from the bank.  Not only did she talk about the crimes, but she reinforced her guilt by writing about them for the world to see.

9. Bank of France Robbery in Toulon

The suspected mastermind behind this high-profile French robbery committed suicide in prison this year.  Marc Armando, sentenced to 18 years for his role in the famed heist, was incarcerated awaiting trial for a drug trafficking charge when his body was found hanging in his cell.  It is thought that Mr. Armando provided the coordination behind the 1992 Bank of France robbery known as the heist of the century.

To carry out the plot, a group of about 10 conspirators kidnapped a family member of a guard working at the bank.  With threat of harm to his loved one, and a back-up cache of explosives strapped to his body, the guard cooperated with the gang of thieves.  The crooks made away with around $30 million dollars, most of which was never recovered.  Some of the gang members were never prosecuted for their crimes, but a bulk of the gang was held accountable in court.  Within a couple months, authorities had rounded up a majority of the gang’s members, but only about 10% of the money they stole has been recovered to date.

10. Banco Central in Fortaleza, Brazil

In terms of values stolen during high-dollar bank robberies, this one lands in the Guiness Book of World Records for a “pure” bank heist.  Sure, Saddam Hussein fleeced his own bank for a cool billion, but that wasn’t a genuine effort like the Brazilian affair.  In 2006, a group of criminals numbering in the dozens banded together for the creative Brazilian bank robbery.  The gang posed as landscapers working in a nearby building, before digging a tunnel underground to their intended target.  The 250 foot passageway took them to the base of the bank, which they bored-into over the course of a weekend. In the end, the group took off with an estimated $70 million worth of stolen funds.

The gang was successful in removing what amounted to three tons of currency, and eluding police for a time.  To date, 28 members of the gang have been held accountable for their crimes, including Antonio Reginaldo de Araujo, considered to be the criminal mastermind behind the robbery.  Some of the conspirators already convicted are serving sentences as long as fifty-three years.  Despite rounding up a good share of the gang, only about 10-percent of the stolen money has ever been recovered.

11. Sentry Armored Car Courier Company

One of the largest cash robberies in United States history, the crime was against an armored transport company, but the take was money from banks.  Bounty valued at more than $11 million dollars was taken from the bank truck facility with the help of an insider.  One of the guards on duty the night of the crimes assisted the thieves, pretending he was the victim of an attack and robbery committed by three men.  The conspirators were exposed due to various money-trails left in their wake.  According to the gang, seven-million in cash was split between four robbers, resulting in money laundering concerns for the group.  After attempting to conceal some of the booty in Greece, and other amounts in Switzerland, some of the crooks U.S. holdings were exposed, leading to their arrests.

The guard on duty was found handcuffed to a pipe, complete with a detailed account of how he ended up there.  Unfortunately for the inside man, security records indicated that a garage door had been accessed by the guard.  His story unraveled when details of his account did not match facility records. To date, only about $1.5 million worth of the stolen cash has been recovered.

12. Seafirst Bank Robbery

This high-dollar heist became well known for the staggering take, but also for a quirky characteristic shared by the thieves.  When the two men robbed the Seafirst Bank in Lakewood, Washington they were commiting the richest bank robbery in history (at the time).  But they also wore trenchcoats, which immediately assigned the iconic feature to the case, forever known as the “trench coat robbery“.

Despite the novelty of the attire, real guns were used and the men behind the coats were not casual about their profession.  Ray Bowman and William Kirkpatrick were professional bank robbers, suspected in at least two dozen other robberies in Washington State.  At Seafirst, the duo walked away with nearly $5 million dollars and a place in the record books.  Unfortunately for the pair, they would trip themselves up with less than professional behavior.  Kirkpatrick was pulled over for speeding, yielding all kinds of clues during a search of his car.  In addition to fake documents and crime tools, Kirkpatrick carried close to $2 million dollars with him.  His counterpart, Bowman, didn’t fare much better, failing to pay his storage locker bill on time.  The owner of the locker opened it up, alerting the police to a cache of weapons found inside.  It was not long before Bowman was in custody too.

Photo by matteson.norman on Flickr

Photo by matteson.norman on Flickr

13. First Interstate Bank Bellevue, Washington

This bank was one of many robbed by a prolific couple doing business on the West Coast in the late eighties and early nineties.  John Madison and Carolyn Marie Williams carried out more than fifty armed robberies across California, Washington and Texas before being prosecuted for the First Interstate heist.  The couple used a precise M.O. each time they robbed, with Carolyn driving the getaway car and John brandishing a gun inside.  In fact, his calling card was to discharge a round from the gun into the bank ceiling, showing robbery victims he meant business.  His quirky habit earned him the nickname “Shootist” from police officers.

Both of the Williams’ pleaded guilty to their crimes and Johnny Madison received sentences totaling 92 years for the crimes he could be prosecuted for.  His own record-keeping helped police outline the eight year string of successful robberies committed by the Williams’.  By the time he was brought down in 1994, his running total was approaching one-million dollars.

14. Loomis Fargo Bank Robbery

In October of 1997 an enterprising employee of the Loomis Fargo Company put a robbery attempt in motion that would yield a $17 million dollar payday.  The mastermind was David Ghannt, a supersisor at the regional vault of the Loomis Fargo Company.  The robbery represents the largest cash heist on U.S. soil, but the bid was unsuccessful.

Eight people were eventually indicted as direct conspirators, as well as sixteen others identified as playing peripheral roles in the scheme.  Ghannt was suspected for his role in the crime almost from the beginning, as he went missing to Mexico shortly after the robbery.  His co-conspirators spent lavishly once he was out of the country, drawing suspicion and getting everyone noticed by the feds.  Nicknamed the “hillbilly heist” because of the participants’ lack of savvy, the crime was a highly popular late night comedy target. Despite the high-profile spending of the gang members, around 95% of the total take was eventually recovered or accounted for.

15. Geezer Bandit Hold-Ups

There is no way of knowing exactly what lies beneath the disguise of this bank robber associated with at least 16 crimes across California.  Is an elderly man, as it appears, really committing the brazen robberies?  Or is it the work of a clever master of disguises concealing his youthful identity in an effort to misguide investigators?  Whatever the case, the circumstances surrounding the robberies provide entertainment value as well as serious concern for victimized banks.

Many of the Geezer’s targets have been Bank of America locations, but his patterns are not exclusive to any particular company.  His approach is the same everywhere though.  He enters each bank with a satchel or briefcase, from which he extracts a note for the teller, which describes his or her imminent death if cooperation is not forthcoming.  His total estimated take has not been revealed, but the growing tally is assumed to be significant given the number of successful crimes he has pulled off.  During one robbery, he was seen to be fleeter of foot than most elderly subjects, supporting the theory that it is a younger person in disguise.  His or her popularity is explained by the unique nature of the effort, but there are twenty-thousand additional reasons for the public to pay attention to this story.  Information leading to the Geezer’s capture is worth $20,000 to the FBI.

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10 Most Heinous Serial Killers of all Time

Throughout history, serial killers have made lasting impressions not only for the numbers of people they victimize, but also for the gruesome ways they operate.  Diabolical killers each leave their own unique signatures on the crimes they commit.  And when multiple victims surface, their notoriety grows.    Our unquenchable thirst for details about heinous criminals keeps the media scrambling for ways to showcase sensational crimes, spawning made-for-TV movies and documentaries about the world’s infamous killers.  As a result, serial killers live in infamy, as household names associated with some of humanity’s darkest moments.  These examples stand-out among history’s most depraved serial killers, landing them among our top ten.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

1. Jeffrey Dahmer

Dahmer’s own end only added to the bizarre circumstances surrounding his case.  He was eventually beaten to death in prison, fulfilling the death wish he had expressed multiple times while incarcerated.  But the tale of his gruesome exploits started years earlier when he was exposed for a lengthy crime spree.  Dahmer’s case had all the hallmarks of a twisted serial murder plot, complete with cannibalism and necrophilia.  The contrast between the seemingly normal public life Dahmer lived, and the unspeakable acts occurring behind closed doors made the case all the more unusual.  In the end, being beaten to death in a prison bathroom was a fate many thought Dahmer had coming.

Details of Dahmer’s crimes continued to emerge for months after initially coming to light in the early 1990’s.  Dahmer, it turns out, had been trolling for victims at homosexual nightclubs, successfully luring them to his small urban apartment with promises of sex and drugs.  Once there, Dahmer engaged in various perversions including killing, dismembering and sometimes eating parts his victims.  By drugging his victims and killing them, Dahmer sought to possess them somehow, even freezing body parts to revisit later.  Drums of acid and other heinous instruments of horror were removed from his apartment in the days following Dahmer’s arrest, cementing his place as one of history’s most evil villians.  Jeffrey Dahmer Files explores the life of the killer in a quasi-documentary format.

Photo courtesy of The Orchid Club on Flickr

Photo courtesy of The Orchid Club on Flickr

2. John Wayne Gacy

The façade presented by serial killers leaves the public aghast at the nature in which pure evil moves through society.  Neighbors, friends, and local characters go from beloved to bedeviled when their unspeakable acts are revealed.  John Wayne Gacy was a well-liked local figure, so it was particularly disturbing when the series of murders he committed came to light.

Gacy was a visible public figure, even donning the costume of “Pogo the Clown” to participate in magic shows for children.  He ran a string of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, and was popular enough to consider a run for mayor in his hometown.  But Gacy had perverse appetites which slowly came to light.  He was a sexual deviant, pursuing wife-swapping and prostitution, as well as sex with young men.  To feed his depravity, Gacy eventually kidnapped and murdered more than 30 men and boys, torturing and killing them after sex.  Over the course of many years, he buried the bodies below and around his home, leaving a trail of evidence for prosecutors.  Gacy was tried and put to death for his heinous killing spree and psycho-sexual exploits. Recently revealed tapes contain never before heard Gacy commentary.

Photo Courtesy of Florida State Archives

Photo Courtesy of Florida State Archives

3. Ted Bundy

The heinous nature of their crimes does not always indicate slow-minded killers.  In-fact, serial killers like Ted Bundy are usually of above average intelligence, sometimes by a significant measure.  Unfortunately, using I.Q. for evil, rather then good, often leads to prolonged killing sprees among criminals clever enough not to get caught right away.  Ted Bundy, born Theodore Robert Cowell, stands as one of the most prolific killers in history, eluding capture long enough to end the lives of at least 30 victims.  The true number of Bundy’s victims remains unknown and probably exceeds the specific killings he confessed to.

Like John Wayne Gacy, Bundy was a sexual deviant who eventually succumbed to his perverse desires, kidnapping and killing a string of women and girls throughout the 1970’s.  He was an attractive, charismatic individual who presented himself with a cast or crutches to lure women to his aid.  He’s kill them with blows to the head, and admitted to keeping parts of their bodies and having sex with their corpses.  He moved around in Washington, Utah and Oregon focusing on college campuses as sources for young female victims.  His trials were bizarre, and Bundy successfully escaped during one, by acting as his own lawyer and running from the unsecured law library.  Ted Bundy earned multiple death sentences for his serial killing spree, eventually being put to death by lethal injection, without taking responsibility for many killings believed to be his doing. There is strong support for findings indicating Bundy killed more than 100 people.

Photos courtesy of freeinfosociety.com

Photos courtesy of freeinfosociety.com

4. Edward Gein

Time tempers the impact of heinous crimes, but serial killers live long in infamy.  Ed Gein committed his twisted acts in the 1950’s, but remains the subject of fascination today.  In part, the gruesome nature of his crimes have served to keep them in the public eye.  Like his sick Wisconsin counterpart Dahmer, Gein was cannibal and necrophile haunted by bizarre obsessions.   In the end. exposing his seven year killing spree would bring some of history’s most depraved acts to light.

Gein’s obsessions included female anatomy, Nazi experiments on people, and an overwhelming desire to change his sex from male to female.  He initially robbed graves to support his bizarre desires, but his crimes eventually escalated into the murders of women and girls.  Clippings about the disappearances were found on his farm at the time of his arrest, along with a partially dismembered body.  As the investigation continued, unspeakable items were uncovered at Gein’s home.  Human body parts were utilized as household items, including skull-bowls and upholstery made of human skin.  A human heart was found in a pot on the stove.  Gein was institutionalized for the rest of his life, where doctors tried to uncover explanations for his psychotic, murderous behavior.

Phot courtesy of Florida Department of Corrections

Phot courtesy of Florida Department of Corrections

5. Aileen Wuornos

Serial killers are typically men, but the disturbing practice extends to the fairer sex as well.  Because of the violence and physical strength required to subdue victims, men are better equipped to commit serial crimes than women are, but Aileen Wournos provides a fascinating study into the twisted mind of a female serial killer.

Wuornos emerged from a troubled childhood with emotional scars and a young history of promiscuity.  At 14, she was sent to a home to give birth to a child, which was adopted.  She was a petty criminal early on, engaging in theft forgery and prostitution, while moving through a series of failed relationships.  In 1989, when bodies started appearing under suspicious circumstances, it foreshadowed the unfolding tale of a female killer on a spree.  Wuornos killed at least 7 men, using firearms to carry out her crimes.  She was eventually put to death and was portrayed by Charlize Theron in a Hollywood movie about her murderous spree.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

6. Gary Ridgway

DNA advances changed outcomes for many modern day serial killers.  Linking criminals to victims using advanced DNA technologies provides the smoking gun responsible for bringing down some of history’s most notorious villians.  But the technologies have not been court-worthy for all that long.  Gary Ridgway was linked to his early-80’s crimes well before he was definitively tied to them with DNA evidence in 2001.  Ridgway had been killing since 1982 when he strangled a sixteen year-old victim to death.

Ridway’s death toll is disputed, but he pleaded guilty to 48 counts of murder.  It is widely believed he killed as many as 60 women in Washington State.  His killing spree was so prolific he cannot remember all his victims.  Most were young, many prostitutes that were picked up along Route 99.  To avoid the death penalty, Ridgway took police to four graves of his victims and confessed to many other murders.  He was sentenced to life in prison in 2003.  In his own twisted mind Ridgway thought he was performing a valuable service, ridding the streets of vile prostitutes.  His victims were commonly in their teens and early twenties.  He is known colloquially as The Green River Killer, for dumping remains near the site.

AP Photo

AP Photo

7. Donald Harvey

Serial killers satisfy unique perversions as they kill.  For some, it is a sexual gratification tied to misplaced feelings of affection and desire.  Others are obsessed with the human body, killing as a way to explore it in sadistic ways.  And killers have their own methods to their madness – some using guns to kill victims, while others engage in more personal slaying practices.  Donald Harvey is a notorious 1970’s killer that claimed is victims from a position of trust – as a nurse’s aid.

Using his access to patients to satisfy his sickness, Harvey poisoned hospital patients with cyanide and arsenic.  He eventually confessed to more than 70 murders, occurring before 1978.  An anonymous tip and police search of his home led to his arrest and convictions.  It is said that Mr. Harvey also infected patients, before nursing them back to health.

Photo courtesy of Texas Department of Corrections

Photo courtesy of Texas Department of Corrections

8. Henry Lee Lucas

Lucas and an accomplice carried out untold murders – ranging in the hundreds by many accounts. Their motivation appears to have been primarily justified as “thrill killings” conducted simply for the adrenaline rush.  Eventually convicted of 10 murders, Lucas avoided the death penalty when his sentence was commuted.  The decision to spare his life relates to doubts about the conviction that was to end it.  The killer was convicted in 1984 for the rape and murder of a victim clad only in orange socks.  The “Orange Socks” verdict was called into question by eveidence showing Lucas may have been in another location when the crimes were committed.

The prolific killer started close to home, claiming his own mother as his first murder victim.  His claims of self-defense were rejected, and he was sentenced to 20-40 years in jail.  After serving ten years of his sentence, Lucas was released.  There is no real way of knowing how many people Lucas actually killed, he was well-known for exaggerating his claims, and at various times confessed to murders numbering in the thousands.  Plausible victims stand in the hundreds, but Lucas’ death in 2001 took his secrets to the grave.

Public Photo

Public Photo

9. Charles Manson

No list of infamous serial killers is complete without references to the crimes of Charles Manson.  The famed leader of a remote hippy cult is responsible for some of the most high-profile killings in world history.  Manson was the leader of a commune, enlisting followers to do his dirty-work.  The sensational nature of the group’s murders and the antics of the ensuing trials stayed in the public spotlight for years.

Manson was a failed musician with enough charisma and intelligence to dupe followers into thinking he was the second coming.  Two famous crime scenes provide the Hollywood backdrops for atrocious acts of violence committed there.  Manson followers, both men and women, participated in gruesome murders at the home of Sharon Tate, an actress and husband of film director Roman Polanski.  She was pregnant at the time of her death, which resulted from multiple stab wounds.  Several people died there, and at the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca who aslo fell victim to the Manson “family” killing spree.  Cryptic clues scrawled in blood of victims were left behind at the crime scenes, which were horrific.  Manson was eventually linked to the crimes.  During his trial followers conducted organized demonstrations and his co-defendents mutilated themselves in shows of support for Manson.

Public Photo

Public Photo

10. Dean Corll

Known as the Candy Man in his home neighborhood, due to his family’s candy business, Corll was in fact a brutal serial killer.  In the early seventies, Dean Corll raped and killed at least two-dozen young men and boys.  The “Houston Mass Murders“, as his crimes came to be known, were carried out with the help of accomplices in the Houston area.  In fact, Corll’s involvement in the crimes did not come to light until he was shot by one of his co-conspirators.

Corll, an Army veteran, had a predilection for sex with young boys, who he raped and killed with the help of accomplices.  A steady-stream of victims were furnished by Corll’s associates, who also sometimes participated in the attacks.  During a falling-out, Corll was shot to death by one of these associates.  After his death, the magnitude of Corll’s crimes started to unfold.  He had sadistically abducted, raped, tortured and killed dozens of boys under the age of 18.  As his accomplices identified victims and led police to bodies, the heinous nature of this serial killer was exposed.

Moms: 10 Must-See Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe on Facebook

Social media advances open channels of communications that impact people’s lives in positive ways, but there are also risks associated with connecting in this way.  Savvy users know the ins and outs of the system, but children are not always prepared to defend themselves against web-based threats.  For concerned parents, following strict safety protocols provides the best assurance against harmful consequences for younger family members.

Photo by karindalziel on Flickr

Photo by karindalziel on Flickr

Facebook is a relatively open forum, allowing users to post personal information about themselves.  If the proper controls are not used effectively, sensitive information can fall into the wrong hands.  Young children are especially vulnerable, but even teens familiar with the platform take missteps along the way. To limit their exposure to unnecessary risks, follow these basic guidelines for keeping kids safe on Facebook.

1. Protect Passwords

Passwords play a vital role in internet security, so attention should be paid to this Facebook feature.  First, passwords should be selected sensibly, rather than falling into the standard patterns of using pets’ names and birthdays for safety codes.  Instead, mix up your signals with words that don’t point to you, and include both upper and lower case characters in the passwords you select.  Special characters like dollar signs and ampersands strengthen security too, adding additional layers of complexity to password choices.  Passwords should be changed periodically  to hedge against familiarity that lets your guard down.  Parents must specifically retain their children’s Facebook passwords, helping kids manage their safety.

As you work with your children on Facebook, stick to the same password principles you apply to other online security situations.  The object of your password selection is to do the most you can to discourage intruders, frustrating them into leaving your child’s account alone.  Computer programs used by online attackers sometimes cycle through hundreds of password combinations every second, attempting to decipher your code.  Never use your own name, or a combination of your first, last or middle name as a password.  It is simply too easy to link information like your name to your password.  Always use combinations of letters and numerals in your child’s password, making it harder to crack.  longer is better too, creating statistical advantages for each character you add to your password.

2. Monitor Facebook Activities

Nobody wants to overstep their boundaries enforcing children’s internet usage, but monitoring kids’ online behavior is the only way to insulate them from Facebook opportunists.  Parents in-tune with photographs posted by their kids have censorship abilities that can head-off problems before they happen.  And monitoring interactions with other users provides assurances that kids are not running with the wrong Facebook crowds. Free monitoring tools are available online, and for parents wishing to distance themselves from the effort, professional monitoring services do the job for hire.

It is important for parents’ to remember that kids have no expectation of privacy online, especially concerning social networking and sites like Facebook.  Your duty to protect your kids at all costs is relieved by the virtual nature of online platforms where your kids participate.  Check-in on your child’s Facebook usage from work if you have to, but don’t give them a pass for their online hobbies.  Friends of your children are also good resources for keeping an eye on your own kids.  Check friends’ accounts periodically to see what they are sharing about your children.

3. Censor Yourself

The easiest way to avoid problems with Facebook is to filter what you share via the site.  Despite its personal nature, connecting friends and family in intimate ways, Facebook is a public clearinghouse for information – viewed by hundreds of thousands of users daily.  Actively limiting what you make available to Facebook users is the only way to maintain control of sensitive photos and information.  Children share too much anyway, even during face to face interactions, so extra care must be taken to censor them online.  And teens with the world by the tail sometimes need to be reminded of the permanence of the internet, and the need for self-censorship.

Facebook users are advised to post only things they’d happily share with just about anyone.  Assuming that posts will be respected and taken at face value is the wrong approach.  Facebook users preying on children thrive on bits of information they can use to get their way.  Showing their vulnerabilities online opens the door for predators waiting to take advantage of your children’s trusting natures.

4. Learn and Use Facebook Safety Features

Facebook’s efforts to protect you online are less effective when users are in the dark.  To get the most from them, learn your options for security, so that you are an active proponent for your child’s online safety.  When in doubt, change settings to “only friends”, limiting access for unapproved visitors.  And always think of Facebook as an evolving resource, staying on top of security changes as the develop.  Features like Active Sessions and Login Approvals add extra layers of security to Facebook, protecting children from unauthorized access.  Features like Facebook’s one-time password may not seem child-centric, but every effort to bolster your online security protects them too.  The disposable passwords are designed for instances when you don’t want to sign in using your real information.  When using public computers or accessing Facebook from handheld devices, App Passwords are another option for protecting your Facebook sign-in information.

Trusted Contacts are maintained by Facebook users to ensure there is a safe contact available at all times.  Designated users are assigned Trusted Contact status at your own discretion, for help when you are unable to access your Facebook account.  Simply contact them when you forget your password or login information, and they can provide them for you.

5. Know What Others are Posting About Your Child

Facebook photos and other details about your children’s lives don’t always come from the horses mouth.  Friends and classmates are often guilty of handling these items loosely, leaving undesirable links to your child on the World Wide Web.  In cases where others post the wrong message about your kids, it might be necessary to have them remove the photos or sensitive information.  While it is easy to limit your own sharing, monitoring others output can be more difficult.  Make sure your children are well-versed on what is and isn’t appropriate for friends to share online.

Photo by wetwebnetwork on Flickr

Photo by wetwebnetwork on Flickr

Losing control of your online identity can happen quickly, especially for children, whose social lives are much more micro-managed than most adults. Unfortunately for some, things start unraveling before there is time to set up damage control.  “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not be more true than itb is on Facebook.  That compromising photo, or ill-advised Facebook post are no threat at all, provided they do not exist.  Trusting immature intuitions is not a sound strategy for parents – even the most well-behaved kids fall prey to moments of poor judgment.  The key is to equip them with the tools for knowing when an innocent friendly exchange might be a mistake that follows them forever online.

6. Don’t Friend People You Don’t Know

Managing who you are linked to on Facebook sets the tone for your online identity.  Don’t automatically friend Facebook users just because they want to link to you.  Instead, actively screen your children’s friends so that they are precisely the folks your kids are online to connect with.  Fake profiles are used to run Facebook scams, phishing for information and creating spam opportunities.  Don’t allow opportunistic criminals to prey on your children’s accounts under the guise of friendship.  The same goes for tagging people in photos and using other facebook options.  These features are designed with adults in mind, and are not designed as random clicks for kids.  As an adult representative, it is your duty to keep your children up to speed about Facebook features, so they are used properly and don’t call unwanted attention toward your kids.  And stay abreast of changes, like a recent Facebook addition allowing hashtagged posts to become clickable.   As features change, past posts and future ettiquette do too.

7. Protect Personal Information

There is really no reason to post sensitive information in your Facebook profile.  Phone numbers, residential addresses and private information should not be visible to the public.  Putting these bits of data out there for all to see creates easy access for internet scammers.  Even birthdays should be guarded, released only to those you know and trust.  While the social element of a happy birthday may seem innocent enough, date of birth is a prized piece of personal information for identity thieves and others using Facebook to mine data.  Further protection is added by guarding email addresses and running up to date anti-virus programs on your child’s computer.

There is no limit to the creativity employed by thieves and other internet scammers preying on children.  Consider your child’s identity to be a big puzzle, with bits of personal information representing its individual pieces. Your job then, is simple:  Keep the pieces out of the hands of the bad guys.  Each vital statistic helps predators create the mosaic they’d like to use to gain something from your kids, so even the most innocuous details should be coveted by parents.

8. Guard Your Child’s Location

Revealing too much about your location and the activities you are engaged in can be problematic online.  When you check-in on Facebook, it is not necessary to identify where you are, or more importantly – where you aren’t.  Much has been made about location-oriented social sharing apps, and for good reason.  Outlining your vacation itinerary on Facebook, for example, is a bad idea.  When schedules are shared thieves know you are not home, so your house automatically becomes more attractive as a target.

Emphasize the importance of location anonymity to your under-aged Facebook users, encouraging them to use other modes of communication to share certain information.  Facebook users targeting children like to see location posts from minors, because they often contain indications that parents will not be present. Opportunists’ sophisticated efforts to get into kids’ inner circles are greatly assisted by notifications that combine locations with activities, such as “Hey world, we are in Dan’s basement playing online while his parents cruise the harbor until 11:00 o’clock.”

9. Reinforce Good Judgment

Even though Facebook employs added security features for teen accounts, there are still ways for kids to get in over their heads.  Parents and kids need to work together to stay safe online, rather than as adversaries.  Taking into account the prominent roles computers play in modern teens’ lives, it becomes clear that a strong-handed approach might not be your best bet.  Keep communication lines open, learning from your children as you go.  Judgment calls successfully navigated by kids should be rewarded and reinforced, providing incentives for future conservative Facebook behavior.

There is a good chance your own kids know more about Facebook than you do, so you are in it together.  While this might be okay with you, it is natural for kids to push-back at certain ages.  As you and your family embrace new technology, don’t forget that it is uncharted grounds for everyone aboard.  Discover the best ways to incorporate advances into your lives together, so that everyone is on the same page.  If your child has different ideas about the ways he or she would like to proceed online, help them get what they want from the experience, without compromising their safety.

10. Create Your Own Facebook Page

Familiarity breeds security online, so parents should participate on Facebook to better understand it.  Friend your own kids, especially younger ones, and have discussions about online boundaries.  The fine line parents are sometimes required to walk extends online, making sure kids know you are there, while respecting their space too. Having a page also lets you lead by example.  Your posts are available at all times, for your own kids and others to use as guidelines for proper Facebook etiquette.

What you choose to do with your Facebook account is up to you, but more than one parent signing-up to monitor children have become avid users of the site, finding benefits they may not have anticipated.  Whatever you do, make sure your Facebook presence doesn’t hang over your kids like a scarecrow looming in the garden.  While there are plenty of risks to be found online, Facebook and other social sites are primarily conceived to provide enjoyment for users, which is diminished by over-bearing parents.  And don’t lose sight of the adult nature of Facebook, which is not technically designed for participation by users under the age of 13.

 

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