New Brunswick

Cyberstalking more prevalent among single, never-married women, study shows

Cyberstalking is more prevalent among single, never-married young women, a new study from Statistics Canada shows.

Cybersecurity expert urges caution in sharing personal information online

Cyberstalking victims were more likely to have taken steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of crime, the Statistics Canada report found. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Cyberstalking is more prevalent among single, never-married young women, a new study from Statistics Canada shows.

The study of internet users aged 15 to 29 also showed those with a history of being victimized are much more likely to experience cyberstalking, or cyberbullying.

The results come as no surprise to Ron MacLeod, a cybersecurity specialist who has worked in the industry for about 30 years and is currently the president of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association for Atlantic Canada.

'The online world is a bit of a jungle and within that jungle there are predators.- Ron MacLeod, cybersecurity expert

Young women tend to live their social life online, through online dating sites and the use of social media, said MacLeod, the father of two teens.

"Unfortunately, the online world is a bit of a jungle and within that jungle there are predators with malicious intent that will take that information and sort of use it against you," he said.

He urges people to carefully consider what personal information they share, who they share it with and how they share it.

"You know perhaps we don't necessarily need to know where you're having lunch that day, or what your plans are for this weekend, or when you're travelling or who your latest romantic involvement is with," he said.

"So I ask people to step back and take a very close look at the types of information that they're readily sharing out to the ether."

In 2014, seven per cent of young women reported that they had been cyberstalked, versus five per cent of young men., according Statistics Canada. Similarly, the single/never-married population was also more at risk of being a victim of cyberstalking, at six per cent, compared with four per cent for those who had ever been (or were currently) married or living common-law.

Correlation with past abuse

About 17 per cent of the population aged 15 to 29 that accessed the internet at some point in the previous five years reported they had experienced cyberstalking or cyberbullying. Of those, 31 per cent reported experiencing both.

Young Canadians with a past experience of victimization were significantly more likely to experience cyberbullying and cyberstalking. For example, 31 per cent of those who were physically or sexually assaulted before the age of 15 experienced either cyberstalking or cyberbullying, compared with 13 per cent of those who did not report an experience of assault.

MacLeod believes the correlation between cyberstalking or cyberbullying and people who have previously been victimized in another way is due to the fact they are more readily able to recognize abuse.

Being a victim of either cyberstalking or cyberbullying raises the risk of having a reported emotional, psychological or mental health condition and a low level of trust in people at school, work, or in the neighbourhood, the report found.

May continue for another generation

MacLeod said the results left him with an "overwhelming sadness that, you know, we're still dealing with this and the knowledge that we're going to be dealing with it for maybe another generation."

"There are lot of people that look at these situations and say, 'We've got to get out there and have awareness programs,' and there's sort of an underlying belief that perhaps we can correct this in a couple of years," said MacLeod.

"But the truth is we are just in the very early stages of the adoption of a new technology that is radically influencing the way that we live our lives and it may be a generation or two before we would mature enough into our use of that technology that we would begin to address these types of problems."

In the meantime, people should not live in fear, he said, but should take precautions to protect themselves.

With files from Information Morning Saint John