According to the Cyber Bullying Research Center and one of its founders Justin Patchin...."catfishing refers to the practice of setting up a fictitious online profile, most often for the purpose of luring another into a fraudulent romantic relationship" (http://cyberbullying.us/blog, February 7, 2013, 12:41 pm). In the news recently, we have learned of the high profile case of Manti Teo who developed an on-line romantic relationship with another individual whom he believed to be a female. When Manti Teo discovered that the relationship was all a "lie", he and many others in his family were deeply hurt by the layers of deception deliberately inflicted by the online perpetrator.
One of the struggles that parents and guardians face is knowing what is considered to be innocent on-line teasing or playing a joke on an individual and what really constitutes "cyber bullying". Again, according to Patchin, "Anytime someone uses technology in a way that causes repeated harm to another, it can be classified as cyber bullying" (http://cyberbullying.us/blog, February 7, 2013). Catfishing qualifies as a form of cyber bullying and should be dealt with as such. As with other forms of cyber bullying, these behaviors are always intentional and aggressive; they can be perpetuated by a group or an individual; and they are targeted against a victim who cannot easily defend him/herself.
What can parents or guardians do to help protect our youth against "catfishing"?
- Do not give out personal information to on-line individuals that you do not know (in person).
- Even if you know them, limit the amount of personal information.
- Do not accept 'friend requests' from strangers.
- Do not be fooled or blinded by someone's words of affection, or attention, or affirmation. This is how a perpetrator will draw in a innocent person!
- If someone seems too good to be true - they are! Trust me, no one is perfect!!
- NEVER go meet with someone you met on-line!
- TELL a trusted adult if you think something is "fishy" about an on-line relationship! It probably is!!