5 principles that
support the wellbeing of educational leaders. By Lucy
The wellbeing of those in education has become a popular
topic over the past few years. You only need to look at recent headlines to
understand why – for example, it is reported that 1 in 20 teachers have mental
health problems that have lasted more than a year (Nuffield
Foundation, 2020), and more than half of all education professionals have
considered leaving the sector over the past 2 years due to pressures on their health
and wellbeing (Education
Support Partnership, 2019).
In response to this, recent government initiatives have
placed greater emphasis on the wellbeing of education professionals. For
example, staff wellbeing is now appraised as part of Ofsted’s inspection
framework, and the Department for Education (DfE) has launched a new expert
advisory group. This builds upon previous guidance published by the DfE, which
recommends developing a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Although
educational leaders have been recognised to play a key role in this, they are
rarely asked about their own wellbeing. To address this gap, I invited
educational leaders to take part in a research interview.
So, what did I learn from asking educational leaders to
talk about their own experiences of wellbeing?
1. Make time for
Despite its popularity, there is no universally agreed
definition of wellbeing. Instead, people make sense of what
wellbeing means to them by reflecting on their own experiences and
understanding of the concept.
In this study, the educational leaders were prompted to
explore the topic of wellbeing with a researcher. Outside a research setting, one
common method for encouraging self-reflection is writing in a journal, but this
is by no means the only way. What is important is taking the time to
introspectively ask yourself some key questions, such as:
How do I feel today?
Do I consider my current level of wellbeing
to be low or high?
What aspects of the self (e.g. thoughts,
feelings, behaviours) have contributed to this?
What external factors (e.g. the environment,
interactions with others) have played a role?
You can answer these questions by writing; by talking to
a partner, colleague or professional coach; or by thinking while sitting,
walking or even running. The practice of self-reflection is said to help you
learn and develop a better understanding of yourself. In this instance, it
could help identify what wellbeing means to you, as well as the ways in which
you can support it (see Dr Lucy Kelly’s work on ‘reclaiming
teacher wellbeing through reflective diary-writing’). Notably, this current
study demonstrated that it is not necessary to have experienced both low and
high levels of wellbeing to hold beliefs about what that may look or feel like.
2. Be flexible
What wellbeing means and feels like for one person may be
very different to another person’s experience. It is therefore important that
flexibility is exercised when it comes to promoting your own or other people’s
levels of wellbeing:
Individuals should avoid striving for a
specific manifestation of wellbeing and instead, work out what works best for
Educational leaders need to implement
wellbeing initiatives that offer individuals the flexibility to participate in
a way that supports them.
Educational policies need to be
positioned in a way that gives educational leaders the autonomy and flexibility
to implement processes that work both for themselves and those they lead.
This flexibility emphasises the multi-faceted nature of
wellbeing. One common model of wellbeing – Seligman’s
‘PERMA’ model – suggests that wellbeing comprises
of five different dimensions (Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships,
Meaning and Accomplishment). A flexible approach will allow individuals to
choose to focus on the dimensions of wellbeing that are most important to them,
whether that is building a support network or working towards a goal of their
3. Strive for balance
Although people experience wellbeing in different ways,
high levels of wellbeing are often described as feeling balanced. Crucially,
this balance does not simply refer to a reduced workload. Instead,
‘balance’ may mean:
time between work and non-work (a phrase suggested by one participant, who
refuted that it was a work-life balance as work is part of her life too).
Taking part in
leisure activities outside of work, such as swimming or choir.
that educational leaders are also people with full lives outside the school
spend time in school during the holidays to help promote a sense of control.
home one day a term to take space to focus.
time to experience the ‘nice’ parts of the job, such as spending time with
demands of their job role is balanced with their ability to do it.
Ultimately, a balanced life allows people to distribute
their attention, energy, time and resources as they desire. To help sustain
this balance and higher levels of wellbeing, it is recommended that individuals
find ways to aid themselves in achieving balance in their everyday life.
4. Take action
In this study, the educational
leaders perceived wellbeing as their own responsibility and something
they should actively promote. Although the approaches varied, each leader
demonstrated that they were adopting strategies in line with the New
Economics Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, summarised below.
Connect…The educational leaders were connecting
to those around them through the use of Twitter, group activities, and role modelling
positivity and other behaviours that help promote their wellbeing.
Be active… Examples of physical
activities included cycling, running and swimming.
Take notice… This action was expressed as
being mindful. For example, one participant described pausing to take notice of
the beautiful scenery he passes through on his commute. He noted that this
awareness extends to those around him, as he notices and comments on
colleagues’ small changes (such as a haircut or new shirt).
Keep learning… The educational leaders
were continuing to learn through various forms of CPD, both formal (e.g.
conferences) and informal (e.g. reflecting on their practice with colleagues).
One participant noted that you keep learning throughout life and offers the
example of learning to become a better runner.
Give… This action was depicted as
volunteering time and support, for example, coaching other leaders through
challenging circumstances and volunteering for a local hockey club.
On Twitter, the#teacher5adaycampaign encourages educators to utilise these five actions to promote
their own wellbeing. Using the hashtag,
educators share examples from their own lives, which helps raise awareness of
the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ and the ways in which educator wellbeing can be
To promote higher levels of wellbeing, it is recommended
that individuals ask themselves what they have control over, and which of the
five actions they want to explore to support their wellbeing.
5. Lead by example
The educational leaders were leading by example in
relation to promoting and maintaining higher levels of wellbeing. It should be
noted that leading by example (or ‘idealised influence’) is one of Bass’ four
key transformational leadership behaviours, a type of leadership
commonly associated with high follower wellbeing (see Bowers (2019)
for a review).
This leadership behaviour can be demonstrated in various
Modelling behaviours that support wellbeing,
such as maintaining balance and engaging in leisure activities. This is
grounded in Bandura’s social learning theory, which posits that individuals
learn from observing those around them.
use of the ‘emotional contagion’, which is the phenomenon where observing one person’s
emotions and related behaviours can lead to exhibiting a congruent emotional
state. In this study, educational leaders strived to be positive and calm
around those they lead (often described as their work persona or ‘mask’).
Communicating that wellbeing is a priority
from the top-down. In this study, one educational leader used the oxygen
mask analogy (‘put your oxygen mask on first’) to encourage his staff to
support their own wellbeing, before helping others.
The educational leaders who
participated in this study noted that leading by example helped support their
own wellbeing too.
In summary, it is essential that
educational leaders are encouraged to ‘put their own oxygen mask on first’.
After all, a leader who promotes their own wellbeing can have a positive
influence both on themselves and those they lead. In the field of education,
this can reflect increased teacher motivation, commitment and job satisfaction,
which in turn, is associated with improved pupil outcomes. As such, investing
in the wellbeing of educational leaders can have a significant impact on
a multitude of levels: from the individual, to the classroom and school system
as a whole.
This blog is based on research carried out by
Lucy Lindley for
the Master’s in Research qualification at the University of Portsmouth. Five
semi-structured interviews were carried out with educational leaders who expressed
that they had personally experienced high levels of wellbeing. Their narratives
were analysed in-line with the theoretical underpinnings of Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), a qualitative methodology that encourages
close engagement with each participant’s lived experience.
This is a story of Olivier, a multiracial teenage girl aged 15, living in a agricultural county, in a small town in the UK. Olivier was raised by her Caucasian family, who lived in poverty. They did not acknowledge Olivier’s background and ethnicity, instead Olivier was raised in a white British environment, with no acknowledgement of her black heritage. Olivier did not know how to look after her hair and any product Olivier desired for her hair was too expensive. Olivier begged her family for her hair to be braided to which her older half brother would respond “You are such a chav! Only chavy people have their hair braided and listen to R&B”
An average day for Olivier was straightening her luscious large loose curls every morning. She despised them. All her life Olivier wanted to ‘look like everyone else’. Olivier once attended school with her natural hair… “Don’t you think that’s a bit of an extreme hair style Olivier!?”, her tutor raised his voice above the hustle and bustle of what was a Thursday morning start in school. “This is my natural hair”, Olivier responded looking dead into the bulbous middle-aged man’s wrinkled eyes. Everyone was staring at her, he made sure of that. The day before this Olivier was teased for her ‘dead hair’ in class where she had straightened it every day. Olivier could never win. Olivier was never accepted.
There was one other multi-racial person in Olivier’s class. This was one of the first people Olivier had ever met that resembled anything of her brown skin, full lips and curly hair, except his braided or cut short. His name was Jason. What Olivier didn’t know is that Jason too had been a victim of white washing. For Olivier to even turn up to school with natural hair was an embarrassment. The teacher had placed Jason and Olivier together. Olivier felt a sense of excitement. An opportunity to meet someone like her. Maybe she could eventually find out where to get her hair braided. Jason had no interest of telling her who did his hair. “It was a family-friend, you’d have to know her. She only does black people hair any way” Olivier ‘ was not black enough’. Jason asked to be moved to sit else where. Olivier felt humiliated and belittled. For the rest of the term Jason and his Caucasian friends would throw rubbers in her hair and other stationery to get it stuck. It was a game, she was but an object for their entertainment.
Olivier left school that week. What self-esteem Olivier had left, no longer existed. Humiliated daily and outcast from all parts of society. On that last day of school Olivier walked out of the school gates and was approached by a young man…
Would it be different for Olivier’s if her family reached
out to her black family?
What if Jason gave contact details to Olivier of his cousin?
What do you think happened as a result of Olivier leaving
school? Did she obtain her GCSEs?
Is Jason as confused as Oliver about where he belongs in the
What could’ve happened differently?
How many opportunities were there to help Olivier?
Online stalking (cyber stalking) is carried out in the digital world using a variety of methods. We discuss this problem in detail and reveal how you can improve your online privacy. By Aimee O’Driscoll
Online stalking, also known as cyberstalking or online harassment, is
a problem that has largely arisen as part of the internet era. Just
like offline stalking, it can have a devastating impact on victims.
Several trends contribute to the ease in which cyberstalking may be
carried out. These include accessibility to vast amounts of personal
information (for example, through social media) and the variety of ways
in which we can communicate (through various platforms and apps).
While the psychological profiles of online stalkers tend to quite closely match those of offline stalkers,
there are a couple of differences. Cyberstalkers are more likely to be
ex-partners of their victims and are less likely to approach their
victims. However, most cyber stalkers do use some offline tactics.
Cyberstalking can cause severe emotional (and sometimes physical)
distress to victims. What’s more, it can be difficult to prove,
especially if the perpetrator is good at covering their tracks. In this
post, we reveal more about online stalking, including some real
examples, and discuss the laws around cyberstalking. We also provide
lots of tips to help you protect yourself against cyberstalkers and
explain what to do if you become a victim of this crime.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking or online stalking is a broad term for using online
technology to victimize others. Cyberstalkers may use a variety of
methods such as social media, email, and instant messaging to harass,
bully, or threaten victims.
Typically, cyberstalking involves communication between the stalker
and the victim, but in some cases, there may be no attempt at contact.
For example, a cybercriminal might set up a fake social media account in someone’s name for the purpose of embarrassing the victim.
To illustrate online stalking as it happens in the real world, let’s
take a look at some examples of cyberstalking, including many cases
which have already been prosecuted:
In Utah, Loren Okamura was accused of tormenting Walt Gilmore
and his adult daughter online for over a year. He sent threatening
messages to the daughter and posted her address online. He also sent over 500 people to their home
for unwanted services that included tow trucks, food delivery, and
prostitutes. Okamura was indicted in October 2019 on charges including
cyberstalking and interstate threats, as well as transporting people for
On December 5, 2019 in Nebraska, 20-year old Alec Eiland
received a two-year federal prison sentence for cyberstalking. Eiland
used social media to threaten, harass, and stalk two women who had
rejected him romantically. Among other things, he demanded nude photos
and threatened rape and other acts of violence. He posted one woman’s
contact information online alongside an invitation for solicitations for
a cyberstalker who went as far as faking her own kidnapping, was jailed
by a London court in December 2018 for four and half years. The US
national carried out an extensive cyberstalking campaign against her
ex-boyfriend. She sent him a barrage of texts and emails and created
more than a dozen Instagram accounts for the sole purpose of harassing
As part of the campaign, she even sent him messages and images supporting fake claims she had been kidnapped
and assaulted. The charges laid against her included stalking involving
serious alarm or distress, malicious communications, and perverting the
course of justice.
Parkland victims’ relatives
As if the relatives of the Parkland school shooting victims hadn’t been through more than enough, many were cyberstalked
by Brandon Fleury, aged 22, from California. He admitted to sending
threatening messages to family members of some of those killed in the
shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in
2018. He created multiple fake Instagram accounts used to taunt
victims’ relatives at the end of 2018 and in early 2019. In March 2020,
Fleury received a sentence of five years in prison.
Law school rejection
Cyberstalking incidents often involve rejected would-be suitors or former partners. However, a case in Delaware
involved an attorney being victimized by a rejected interviewee. Ho Ka
Terence Yung launched an attack on the victim, who was an alumni interviewer at a law school that rejected Yung. The victim and his family were subjected to harassment for 18 months.
Among other things, Yung attributed racist, violent, and sadistic
posts to the victim, and accused him of sexual assault and child
molestation. He even had prostitutes and men interested in casual sex go
to the victim’s home. Yung was sentenced to a prison term of 46 months
in February 2019.
Hacked home cameras
Recently, a spate
of cyberstalking attacks involved home surveillance systems. In these
cases, cybercriminals torment victims using the very things that are
supposed to keep people safe. One terrifying example involved a man hacking the Ring camera of a Mississippi family and beginning a conversation with an eight-year-old girl.
As you can see from the above examples, anyone can be a victim of
cyberstalking, and for any reason (or no reason at all). Victims could
be chosen at random, or someone might use cyberstalking in retaliation
after a disagreement, breakup, or rejection. Businesses can become
targets of cyberstalking by competitors or people disagreeing with their
Online stalkers can be very good at covering their tracks, using fake
social media profiles and apps that help them evade monitoring. Indeed,
many cyberstalkers prolong their attacks because they believe they are
invisible online. While there are many tools to help them remain
anonymous, law enforcement can often find ways to catch up with them.
Laws against cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is a relatively new crime and it continues to evolve
alongside ever-advancing technology. So how does cyberstalking fit
within the legal system? The answer to that depends on which country
In the US, cyberstalking is considered a criminal offense. However,
it’s not explicitly covered under federal law. Instead, laws focused on
harassment, slander, and stalking, along with the Violence Against Women
Act, can be used in cyberstalking cases. But since these laws weren’t written with cyberstalking in mind,
they don’t provide the scope that is necessary for some cases. In some
situations, the laws are open to interpretation, which means the victim
may not be adequately protected.
At the state level, more than a dozen states have enacted
anti-cyberstalking laws. California was the first state to do so in 1999
when it introduced a new electronic stalking law under Penal Code 646.9 PC.
Other states to have banned harassment or stalking via electronic
devices include New York, New Hampshire, Illinois, Hawaii, Connecticut,
Arizona, Alabama, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Florida, Alaska, Texas, and
In Canada, the Department of Justice outlines cyberstalking under its criminal harassment law. Section 1.6 of the handbook begins by saying:
Criminal harassment can be conducted through a computer
system, including the Internet. The elements of the offence remain the
same, it is just that technological tools are used to commit the
It goes on to provide examples of acts that may constitute
cyberstalking, including sending harassing messages, gathering
information about the victim (including using spyware), engaging in
“cyber-smearing” (attempts to destroy the victim’s reputation), tracking
a victim using GPS technology, and sending malware to the victim’s
computer, among others.
The maximum term for a criminal harassment offense is 10 years, but
it’s noted that it may be prosecuted alongside other applicable offenses
such as voyeurism, defamation, extortion, intimidation, and identity
While this doesn’t specifically talk about cyberstalking, it does
offer examples of acts associated with stalking that could easily apply
to online stalking. These include contacting a person by any means, monitoring someone’s use of the internet or electronic communication, and publishing content that may relate to a person or purport to originate from someone else.
In Australia, the Stalking Amendment Act (1999)
covers cyberstalking. It doesn’t mention online stalking or
cyberstalking directly, but it does call out contacting someone through
the use of any technology. When it meets other specific criteria, this
can constitute a form of stalking.
There has been debate about some cyberstalking laws as there are cases in which there is a fine line between cyberstalking and free speech. However, these cases are more often those that concern public figures such as politicians.
How to stop cyber stalking
As you can see from the experience of others or perhaps your own,
online stalking is a serious matter. Thankfully, there are lots of
things you can do to help mitigate online stalking before or after it
has begun. Of course, this is not to say that anyone invites this sort
of activity. Rather, these tips will help lock down your digital
privacy, limiting the ability of a malicious party to discover
information about you and access your online accounts.
1. Don’t post personal information online
In the age of social media, it can be very tempting to share
information about yourself, even if you feel uncomfortable doing so.
Sharing quickly becomes oversharing and social media has made it
trivially simple for criminals (including stalkers) to track and torment
Posting information about your home and family, your place of work,
or where you like to hang out can be dangerous. Sharing your personal
email address or phone number online is also a bad idea.
Note that even if you have stopped sharing personal information, it’s
possible that old snippets could still be publicly available, for
example, in forgotten accounts or profiles. If you’re unsure, it’s worth
doing an online search for your name (and any other names you have gone
by) to see what information is out there.
While a simple Google search can show you any obvious information
that’s out there, a stalker may be delving deeper. OSINT (Open-Source
Intelligence) refers to intelligence consisting of information collected from publicly available sources, including social media sites, public records, and chat forums.
It can be used for constructive purposes such as improving your
digital privacy or helping locate missing persons, but it can also be
With a little know-how, you can follow the OSINT framework to see what information is available about you online and then take the necessary steps to remove that information.
2. Tell your friends if you’re being stalked
It’s common for cyber stalkers to reach out to friends and family
members of their victims, for example, to find out personal information
or their whereabouts. They may even pose as their victim, for example,
to ascertain information about their relationship with someone, or to
spread hate messages on their behalf.
As such, if you think you’re being stalked, it’s better if your
friends know to look out for anything out of the ordinary so it can be
shut down before damage is caused.
3. Remove yourself from people search websites
One of the first things you can do to remove your personal
information online is to reach out to people search directories and have
them delete your information. Did you know that sites like
BeenVerified, Intelius, and Spokeo scrape information from social media
sites to create online directories? These are mainly intended for use by
marketers, but could easily be used by online stalkers.
To remove your profile for these sites, most of them require that you
fill out an opt-out form. Others make it more difficult and require
that you subscribe to the service or mail a request along with copies of
identification. With more than a dozen such sites out there, this can be a tedious task. If you’d rather have someone else do it, you can pay a service such as DeleteMe to opt-out of around 20 databases on your behalf.
4. Don’t post information about your location
Along the same lines, posting or revealing information about your
location is not a good idea. Online harassment can quickly progress to
offline stalking. If you’re doing things like “checking in” to a
location on Facebook or allowing location sharing on various apps, you
could be putting yourself in physical danger.
Geotagging photos is also an issue and is something that many users
are unaware of. Cellphone cameras often have built-in location tracking
so when you post a photo to social media, the location in which the
image was taken may also be disclosed. You should be able to switch off
this feature in your device settings. For example, iOS users can go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Camera and select Never.
Also let your friends know not to share information about your
location, for example, by tagging photos you’re in or posting that
they’re out and about somewhere with you.
5. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know
If you have a Facebook profile, you’re no doubt familiar with
receiving friend requests from others. You can change your privacy
settings such that you choose what each person sees, but it’s far
simpler if you limit your friend list to people who you’re happy sharing
all of your posts with.
Plenty of people create fake profiles on Facebook for various
reasons, but it’s often for the purpose of harassment. Facebook has some
level of vetting, but it’s far from effective. It’s quite simple for someone to create a profile for the sole purpose of stalking you.
If you are having issues with someone, block them right away. On other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, you can block specific profiles from following or messaging you.
6. Use strong passwords
This piece of advice is doled out time and again, but it remains an
important one. Some online stalkers will attempt to hack into their
victim’s accounts. They’ll then use them for various means, for example,
posting lewd content or hate speech that appears to come from the
If you use the same password
across accounts, it only takes one data breach to enable criminals to
hack into multiple social profiles, email platforms, and other accounts.
In addition, if someone has your email password and that email is
linked to other accounts, it can be used to change the password for
those accounts. This is because most password reset options work by
sending you a reset link to your email.
Many cases of cyberstalking involve a former or existing spouse or partner,
someone who may be privy to account credentials. If there’s any chance
that an ex-partner may harass you online, it’s a good idea to change
your credentials as soon as possible and use different passwords for
While these are two slightly different processes, the terms 2FA and 2SV are often used interchangeably. Enabling two-factor authentication
means that two steps are required to access an account, or in some
cases, make account changes. One step usually requires a password, and
the second might involve an email or text confirmation, or a form of biometric identification such as a fingerprint or face scan.
These simply add an extra layer of protection to your accounts.
However, as mentioned, if someone has access to your email account, or
your phone for that matter, they may be able to bypass these safeguards.
8.Tighten up your social privacy settings
Social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram,
and Twitter come with built-in privacy settings that you can adjust.
For example, Facebook lets you decide who can see your profile, posts,
friend lists, and friend requests.
It should be noted that these settings are usually set to give you
the least privacy by default. In addition, these features are liable to
change from time to time. As such, it’s worth checking your privacy settings periodically to ensure nothing has changed and that you’re getting the highest level of privacy.
9. Learn to spot suspicious emails and texts
A cyberstalker could use certain tactics that involve sending
malicious emails and texts that don’t immediately appear as such. For
example, a spear phishing email
could look like it’s coming from a reputable sender when it’s really
just phishing for information such as login credentials to a social
In other cases, malicious emails may include links or attachments
that lead to malware being downloaded onto the victim’s computer. This
is a common tactic for installing spyware onto a user’s device and may
lead to things like webcam hacking and keystroke logging (for
Be wary of emails that request you respond to with any personal
information. Check that they are genuinely coming from the purported
sender by examining the email address for authenticity. Avoid clicking
links and attachments unless you’re certain you can trust the sender.
Going back to the issue of webcam hacking briefly, this is a real problem
that impacts victims across the globe. While antivirus software should
be able to spot malware that’s controlling your webcam, you may want to cover it with tape or ensure your laptop is closed when not in use.
10. Find and remove spy apps
As a follow-on to the last tip, you may be concerned that someone has
installed a spy app on your device. For example, a partner or
ex-partner with physical access to your device can install an app
that can track your location or spy on your communications. Or you
could have unknowingly downloaded spyware from a malicious email or
text. We go into detail about how to detect and remove spyware in a dedicated post.
11. Use an antivirus software
If a stalker is trying to install malware on your device, one of your first lines of defense is good antivirus software.
This will detect and block many malicious programs before they can find
their way on to your device. It can also detect malware that’s already
on your system, giving you the chance to remove it.
Note that you can install antivirus software on your mobile devices too. However, it’s worth noting that someone with access to your device could install a legitimate app
for the purposes of spying on or tracking you, one that antivirus
software doesn’t pick up. As such, it’s a good idea to regularly review
your app installs and settings.
12. Use a VPN, especially when using public wifi
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a must when it comes to online
security and privacy. It encrypts all of the internet traffic traveling
to and from your device. This means that it will be unreadable to any
snoopers who manage to intercept it. This is useful for a variety of
reasons, including to prevent tracking by your Internet Service Provider
(ISP) or government.
It also prevents anyone on the same wifi network
as you from accessing your information. For example, if you’re using
unsecured public wifi, such as in a coffee shop, mall, or college campus
there’s the risk that a hacker might be lurking on the same network,
ready to steal your information.
A VPN can also be useful on a shared home network where your
information may otherwise be exposed to other users in the household.
Since cyberstalking is common among ex-partners, it’s not too
far-fetched to think that someone could sit outside your home, connect to your wifi network, and snoop on your activity. Aside from securing your router (more on that below), you can use a VPN to protect yourself in this scenario.
13. Log and report any cyberstalking activity
We’ll go into more detail about this below, but it’s important to log
any activity that makes you uncomfortable, even if you don’t think it
constitutes cyberstalking at that moment. These situations can quickly
escalate, so it’s better if you have a full record of all activity when
the time comes to report it.
Advanced tips for outsmarting online stalkers
The above tips are relatively straightforward to implement, requiring
little investment and minimal tech-savvy. However, if you’d like to
further secure your online identity, here are some more advanced tips
you may want to consider the following:
Use encrypted email
Use the Tor browser
Secure your router and IoT devices
Let’s look at these in more detail:
1. Use encrypted email
While many messaging services come with encryption, either by default
or optional, most mainstream email service providers don’t have
settings that let you encrypt messages. This means that emails are fully
readable to anyone who intercepts them, including cyberstalkers.
Encrypting email isn’t all that simple for non-tech-savvy users, but we do provide a guide for email encryption if you’re interested.
The other option is to switch to a special encrypted email service such as Hushmail or Tutanota, although you’ll have to pay for a decent version of these services.
2. Use the Tor browser
Another way to maintain your anonymity online is to use the Tor browser.
This encrypts all of your internet traffic and passes it through
multiple nodes (volunteer computers), making it very difficult for
someone to track you online.
The major downside to the Tor browser is that encryption drastically slows down your internet connection
so it’s impractical to use all the time. Plus, its use is commonly
associated with illegal activity, which is another turnoff for some
If you’re sharing a network with anyone else, they might be able to
intercept your traffic and view or modify it. Many people don’t bother
to change their router password, leaving them vulnerable to snoopers.
It’s important to take basic steps to protect your home router such as changing the password from the default and following firmware updates (you can usually set these to install automatically).
Other things you can do to secure your router (if you have the option
and ability) is to set the highest level of encryption (WPA2), restrict
outbound and inbound traffic, and turn off WPS. You can find out about
these and more steps in our guide to securing your wireless router. Note that if you’re in doubt about whether or not anyone has access to your network, you should use a VPN, even while at home.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices
such as home assistants and security systems can pose risks too. They
may be sending or receiving information that can be used to determine
information about your day-to-day life or whereabouts. What’s more, as
mentioned earlier, in-home cameras can be hacked allowing criminals to
spy on and even communicate with you and your family members.
One of the most important things you can do to protect these and any devices is to install updates. These usually contain security patches that fix known vulnerabilities.
You should also change the default passwords and “wake words” (for home
assistants) and avoid storing any personal information on these
How to report cyberstalking
Cyberstalking and online harassment are recognized as forms of
stalking under various laws across the globe. If you’re experiencing
cyberstalking, you should contact your local law enforcement. To help
them help you, it’s a good idea to provide them with as much information
As mentioned, if you ever feel uncomfortable in an online situation,
be sure to keep records of all communications or situations that have
made you feel uncomfortable. You can keep a log of events in a simple
spreadsheet, but even more helpful is photographic proof of events. Take screenshots of any activity
that the stalker has undertaken as part of their campaign. It’s best to
start this as soon as possible, even if something seems relatively
insignificant. This way, you’ll be able to show how the situation has
escalated over time if that’s the case.
Since screenshots can be doctored, it’s worth taking a picture of a
message on the device with another camera. If you’re keeping track of
phone calls or text messages, delete the person’s name from your
contacts so that the phone number is visible. This will help serve as
proof of who is calling if needed. Also, remember to save or record any
voice messages as these may automatically expire after a specific period
PRIVACY ALERT: Websites you visit can find out who you are
The following information is available to any site you visit:
Your IP Address:
Bristol, England, United Kingdom
Your Internet Provider:
This information can be used to target ads and monitor your internet usage.
Using a VPN will hide these details and protect your privacy.