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If personal information, such as your phone number, home address, employer details, financial statements, ID number or driver’s license, has been published online without your consent, you’ve been doxed.  Once the preserve of hackers and gamers intent on revenge, doxing is now spilling over to victimise people from all walks of life. People who have been doxed often experience harassing phone calls and comments on their social media at the very least. In extreme cases, doxing victims have been falsely accused of anything from abuse, to fraud and other criminal activity.

The word doxing comes from ‘documents’ and this particular form of cyberbullying doesn’t just happen to politicians, celebrities and high-profile business owners. It could easily happen to you.

The tricky aspect of doxing is the fact that the private details people are able to publish about you is the stuff that you’ve already given away online about yourself. For instance, posting your location on Twitter or enabling location tagging on Instagram can expose your information to those who want to use it against you.

Fortunately, doxing is against the Terms of Service for most websites. Once reported, the person who has doxed you will usually have their account suspended and the posts will be removed. But by then, the damage has been done. Take steps to protect your private information by using secure passwords for your email and social media accounts and increasing your social network privacy settings.

Although young children aren’t usually targets of doxing, many youngsters are reluctant to tell their parents or teachers about a cyber problem. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and aims to highlight the negative effects of bullying. If your son or daughter is the victim of cyber abuse, try these practical steps to deal with the problem.

Don’t simply shrug it off and hope it will go away. Tell them not to respond to any threats or comments online. Don’t delete any of the bully’s messages. Instead, take screenshots and print them out. This will help verify and prove there is cyberbullying.

As hard as it may be, don’t overreact. Be supportive and understanding and ensure your child knows that you will find a solution together. Talk to their teachers and / or school counsellor to ensure other responsible adults are aware of the problem.

Explain – and show – that they can trust you with any cyberbullying information. Make it clear that you will keep their confidence, as long as no one’s safety or health is at risk.

If you or a loved one are struggling to cope, help is available. Call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 456 789 or 0800 21 22 23 to speak to a counsellor.

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