Thirty percent of teens and young adults have had their email, Facebook, or other online accounts hacked into or spied on. But many think of the practice as harmless.
An AP poll turned up the 30% figure, and also found that 72% of spying victims and 65% of hacking ones know who the culprit is. Sometimes that's because it's obvious, like when twenty-year-old Richard Lindenfelzer "walks away and leaves his laptop logged into Facebook, [and] a roommate seizes the opportunity to fiddle with Lindenfelzer's page, writing silly things about love interests or potty humor." Many of us have had our status changed to "I LOVE BUTTS" by a drunk buddy a time or two, and been none the worse for wear. But 46% of people who are hacked or spied on feel hurt by the experience.
The AP tells the story of fifteen-year-old Courtney Eisenbraun, who had her Facebook status changed to "something inappropriate about girls in showers" by an unknown hacker. She says, "I was really confused about how they got my password. I felt violated." And stories like that of Timothy Noirjean, who allegedly hacked into 13 women's Facebook accounts and posted their photos on porn sites, are a reminder that such online invasions can be serious. The obvious response to stories like this is to guard your passwords and personal information carefully (and don't give them out to your boyfriend and your best friend, as one teen the AP quotes did). But Lindenfelzer's story brings up a possible roadblock: many young people think of Facebook and other social media as places for fun and messing around. Getting them to treat their accounts as serious things that need to be protected from prying eyes — even those of friends — may be an uphill battle. And even if they're careful, they remain at risk from predators like Noirjean who use subterfuge to gain access.