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Bullying, Cyberbullying, Cyberstalking: Don’t be a victim – Rise above it (Easier said than done)

Whether you are a teen or an adult, the effects of a cyber stalker or cyberbully can be emotionally devastating. For adults, especially professionals and business owners, it can be financially destructive.

As a victim and survivor of a cyber stalker, as well as the target of cyberbullies, I know firsthand how difficult and stressful it can be.

Initially you are shocked – wondering who these people are? Why are they doing this? In many situations, you don’t even know the perpetrator, but they certainly believe they know you!

In 2006 in Broward County Florida, a landmark case for Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy. It was a jury verdict of over $11M for damages done to my organization, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts and myself. (www.helpyourteens.com)

I was literally bombarded with what are called “Google bombs” – and worse than that, they would attack my friends. My friends would try to fight back and the more you debate these people (stalkers/bullies) the more they engage and it can go from bad to worse within a matter of a few minutes of keystrokes.

With stalkers/bullies, you will never win – Yes, I was vindicated in a court of law, but did that remove all the slime that was online? It didn’t – and I continually have to spend time explaining these unfortunate people that have nothing better to do with their lives but to hurt others. They no longer hurt me – I only feel terrible for others that have to listen to their ranting.

When you can’t beat someone legally, the next best step today is taking it to the wild west of the Internet! Yes, the next thing I realized I was being slammed online. Called a child abuser, kidnapper, Ed-con, exploited families, a crook, and worse. Some comments even got sexual and disgusting. As my family and friends were reading this – I was mortified. I had to take legal action. The rest is history – as I won again in a jury trial for damages of over $11M.

Here we are in 2010 and cyber stalkers are still working hard at hurting people – but what I have learned from my experience is what others need to know when they are stalked.

• Never fuel it or engage in it – you will only fire it up. The stalker/bully wants to get a reaction, as hard as it is, don’t do it.
• If you can, block him/her and report them to the moderator of the forum (ie: Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot, Google etc.)
• If you attempt to tell your side of the story, even when it is the truth, you will never win. These people are determined to destroy you – no matter how blue the sky is, they will always be more determined it is green.
• Remember, when reading their crap, it is 99.9% twisted truths or outright lies. They may tell you to go and read X, Y, and Z – but neglect to tell you to read A, B and C – which completes the story. (For example, my stalker likes to tell people to read my trial transcripts – almost 1000 pages – and they direct you to certain page numbers, but unless you read the whole trial – you won’t understand those few pages, and I may look very bad – afterall, isn’t that the job of opposing counsel?) What would happen if you only heard one side of a case in trial? No one would hear the entire story.
• What motivates these stalkers and bullies? That is a million dollar question. Depending on who they are, in many cases they simply enjoy hurting others. In my case I believe these are seriously deranged people that want all residential programs closed. They don’t understand that many parents are only doing what is best for their teen. Yes, I chose a bad program -but I have taken my mistakes and turned them around to help others.
• Ignoring them is the best form of defense you have. Again, it can be extremely difficult, but remember, the more you try to tell your story, the more they will distort it. You will never win. It is just a matter of time and unfortunately for someone else, they will move on to another target.

There are lots of great online resources with more information on bullying:

http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/cyber-bullying.aspx
http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying
http://www.cyberbullying.us/
http://connectsafely.org
http://www.stompoutbullying.org

Learn more about my story and how to protect your teens and yourself in www.googlebombbook.com and watch my appearance on Rachael Ray Show and ABC News 20/20 at www.suescheffpodcasts.com and http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/show/segments/view/preventing-cyber-slander/

Read more.

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Sue Scheff: Online Resume – Online Makeover

onlineresumeWe watch personal makeovers on television frequently. There is a housewife that has spent all her time and energy raising her children and has let her appearance go. Or someone that had a bad hair experience and need a makeover (or correction). There are grandmothers that have devoted their lives to raising their kids and their kid’s children and yet never took the time to have a simple manicure.

Yes, makeovers are astonishing to watch on television and on some cable channels we can now watch business makeovers as the reality show world grows. A once dying business can be completely regenerated with the expertise of someone with today’s visionary trends and update that failing company into a booming business.

This is also true virtually! If you don’t have a positive, energizing, engaging and inviting presence online, who will be calling you? Who will be using your services? Who will be dating you?

Have you taken the time to consider a virtual makeover? Are you out of job, applying to college or even looking for a soul mate? Today there is more to your physical appearance and your paper resume; it can be about what Search Engines are saying about you.

Recently CareerBuilder shared these numbers:

•11% of employers plan to start using social networking sites for employment screening.
•Of the 45% of employers who conduct online searches of job candidates, 29% use Facebook, 26% use LinkedIn, 21% use MySpace, 11% search blogs, and 7% use Twitter.
•18% of employers said they found content on social networking sites that encouraged them to hire the candidate, while 35% of employers found content that caused them not to hire the candidate.
 

Take the time to read my previous article on improving your Internet Image. Let it be your own keystrokes that tell the World Wide Web who you are.

Have you discovered you need an online makeover or even need a boost to your virtual image? Are you unsure about using the Internet? Not computer savvy? You may want to consider an online reputation service. Although there are many to choose from now, my experiences are with ReputationDefender who is one of the pioneers of these types of services. They offer different packages to meet your individual needs.

The last thing you want to do is ignore your online presence in today’s ever expanding Internet world.

 For more information: October is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month . I also recommend my recent book, Google Bomb which shares my story of Internet Defamation and how I almost lost my organization from a ruined online reputation.  My experiences can help you learn from my mistakes.

Also on Examiner.com

Face to Face – Talking Online – Taking it Off Line

facetoface1Source: ReputationDefender Blog

 

Taking it Offline: The Lingering Importance of Face-to-Face Networking in a Digital World

With the rise and blossoming of online networking sites like LinkedIn and ClaimID, many people, especially younger people, are doing the majority of their business networking online. This phenomenon is not anything new, and it has been covered in this blog and elsewhere.

 

But while it may be easier to sit in front of the computer screen and interact with your peers, it is hard to think that interpersonal relationships can ever be fully fleshed out (if you will) in the digital sphere. Face-to-face networking will never go away. The information on the Internet is not always accurate (although that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant, according to Google’s algorithms), and there is a lot to be said for looking someone in the eyes.

 

Today people should try to balance their “new school” digital networking with the “old school” tried and true methods. The approach will literally double the amount of chances a person has to make an impact with a potential employer, and the effort required to do so is not unreasonable (point of fact, until a few years the “old school” method was the only game in town).

 

LinkedIn and other popular business networking sites thrive because they offer an alternative to actually speaking with a fellow networker. The information you put in the profile becomes the equivalent of a hand shake and a greeting. Thus, a user profile, for business purposes, should be looked at as an opportunity to distinguish yourself as someone others want to know and be connected to.

 

There are small and effective steps one can take to achieve this. Focus on brevity. 100 words is enough to grab someone’s attention and establish a positive image. If done correctly, a LinkedIn profile can, for practical purposes, be the difference between just another interview and a job offer. Conversely, a poorly written profile can have you knocked out of the running before you even get started.

 

Many employers look at LinkedIn as a sort of research tool. A resume can only say so much about a person, and employers are always looking to find out the little bits about a potential employee that are not immediately apparent. This fact has had disastrous consequences for some people whose Facebook and MySpace profiles contain otherwise unflattering images/language/etc. We’ve blogged that story here more than once.

 

Online business networking profiles are still just a piece of the puzzle, though. A successful blend of the old and the new networking techniques will counteract the deficiencies inherent in both approaches. A human touch in the new digital landscape goes a long way towards maintaining awareness and crafting image, while drawing in more localized business and opening channels previously untapped.

Sue Scheff: Teen Internet Addiction

cyberbulliesFinding a Healthy Balance

Warning Signs your Teen May Be Addicted

Psychological and Physical Signs and Symptoms

If you are worried that your teen may be suffering from an unhealthy addiction to the Internet, there are many physical and mental warning signs to watch for. Many of these symptoms are very similar to those of depression and anxiety, another very serious condition affecting teens today. If you feel your teen is suffering from depression, please visit my website resource on teen depression and anxiety.

  • Feelings of intense happiness and euphoria while using the Internet, and feelings of depression, anxiety or irritability if away from the computer
  • Cravings for the Internet – Never having enough time with it
  • Neglecting family and friends – spending more time with the computer and less time doing activities previously enjoyed.
  • Getting behind on homework or school activities
  • Lying about what they are doing while online
  • Complains of dry eyes
  • Complains of Headaches
  • Complains of Backaches
  • Changes in eating habits such as skipping meals or over eating
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Problems with sleep

What Should Parents Do?

  • Examine your Internet habits. Do you spend too much time in front of the screen? The habits of you and your family impact your teen. Be a good role model!
  • Look for the above warning signs, and take action if you feel your teen may be at risk. Seek professional help.
  • Always keep the computer in a common area of the home where it can be monitored by you.
  • DO NOT BAN THE INTERNET. Instead, work with your teen on a time schedule that feels fair to the both of you.
  • Encourage social activity outside of the Internet. Because chatting, emails, and other online social media make it easy for teens to stay at home, open the door to more outside activity. Plan events with friends and family.
  • Learn more click here.

Sue Scheff: Don’t Let the Web Kill what You Love

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

Warren Buffett said that, before the invention of the Internet. Now, in the information age, the statement has never been more truthful. That is why I started a business, ReputationDefender, that is all about protecting reputations.

Your good name, and the reputations of your family, business, and everything you love, is valuable.  So, when your neighbor, a customer, or a love interest plugs your name into a search engine, what will they find?

Anyone can come along and slam you online and if that happens, search results for your name might be dominated by negative, incomplete, or even false information.  A hostile online comment might represent the uncommon experience of a dissatisfied customer or disgruntled neighbor, but due to the structure of search engines, that single opinion can be greatly amplified and made to look like a universal point of view. You might fall victim to the sniping of an anonymous blogger or even a competitor posing as an angry customer.

It’s not only easy to publish half-truths, innuendo, and falsehoods on the Internet, it’s also easy to make them stick.  Many people who publish negative web content know how to make it maximally destructive.  Lies, rumors, or memes take flight easily, getting repeated, added to, and generally magnified. Even though some of these narratives are discovered to be false, very few of them get debunked as loudly as they are broadcasted in the first place. As a result, false content often becomes more visible on the web than, say, well-researched articles from reputable news sources.  It might seem illogical that bogus speculation can end up dominating searches for you, but that’s how a rumor mill works.

A great strength of the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice.  That’s also one of its dangers: it can endow fraudsters and idle speculators with the appearance of authority. 

The danger is real. This does not mean you should stop using the Internet.  It means that you must proactively establish your accurate and positive presence on the web before there is a problem.  You need to maximize your control over what people find about you, before someone else does it for you.

There are options. Companies have developed software solutions for online reputation protection.  ReputationDefender, which is now a partner with TheStreet.com network, is my company, and we do just that.

Michael Fertik is the Founder and CEO of ReputationDefender, the online reputation management and privacy company.

Sue Scheff: What is Google Saying About You?

Source: Portfolio.com

Forget your references, your ­résumé, and the degree on your wall. “Whatever’s in the top 10 ­results of a search for your name on Google—that’s your [professional] image,” says Chris Martin, founder of the small internet company Reputation Hawk, which is one of several outfits that focus on keeping that top 10 clean for their clients.

For victims of cyber-slurs, cleanup doesn’t necessarily mean removing bad press. Companies like eVisibility, Converseon, and 360i concentrate on generating ­positive content—but not too much at one time. If Google detects a ­sudden flood of suspicious Web postings, it will assign them low trust scores, preventing them from rising to the top of search results.

Nino Kader, CEO of International Reputation Management, uses a positive-content approach, calling its strategy a mix of “old-school PR and high tech.” The firm builds social profiles (on MySpace or Facebook) for clients and promotes them to blogs; it also drafts news releases and solicits coverage from traditional press outlets. Scrubbers generally work on retainer and charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000 a month.

A handful of scrubbers do try to actually remove negative content, using coercion, compromise, and occasionally cash. A first step is to contact the website and ask that the harmful post be removed. “For us to pay the site for removal is very uncommon, but less than 1 percent of the time, we have to do it,” says ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik, whose company charges a monthly fee and $30 for each item they persuade a website to remove. If a site refuses to erase an offending post, the next step is to negotiate a compromise. Ask the site administrator to substitute a screenshot for the actual text of the harmful post (a screenshot is an image, so the words no longer register as text to Google and won’t come up in a search).

When it comes to your online image, these companies argue that no one can afford to shrug off a slight. As Fertik says, “The people who are reading stuff about you on the internet don’t have to believe what they read about you beyond a reasonable doubt.” They just have to believe it enough to not hire you

Sue Scheff: Cyberbullying Prevention

cyberbulprevVanessa Van Petten continues to bring valuable information for parents with today’s teens.  This week she has dedicated to helping prevent cyberbullying.

Partners for CyberBully Awareness Campaign:


Thank you to everyone who is already offered to join and spread the word about our anti-cyberbullying campaign here at On Teens Today:

Angeline of MomStyleNews

Vivien Bruss of Cool Moms Rule

 

Brenda Preston of Safewave


Sue Scheff of Help Your Teens

Myrna of TangerineTimes.com

Tara Paterson of the Mom’s Choice Awards and Just for Mom

Karen Pease