By Taylor Flagg
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) developed the Tech Safety App as an educational resource on issues regarding harassment via technology. There is no one right way to respond when faced with harassment, stalking or abuse through technology, and this app is not a comprehensive safety plan, as each instance of harassment or abuse calls for a specific solution.
Technology poses a unique problem with regard to harassment. Harassment and abuse through technology can often be isolating and difficult to escape due to the nature of the medium. Victims and law enforcement authorities may not be able to identify perpetrators if they hide behind technology, which can make escaping the situation even more difficult. As the Tech Safety App points out, “Just because the harassment isn’t in person doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel or is any less real or threatening.” Even though harassment and abuse occur through technology they are still harassment and abuse, and may be considered criminal behavior.
When you open the app, there are six subjects you can click on to explore: cell phone safety, device safety, harassment, impersonation, location safety, and online safety. When you click on each subject, the app outlines steps you can take, safety tips, and resources available regarding that particular issue. Resources available in the app include tips for reacting and responding to harassment and abuse through technology, including documenting evidence, talking with an advocate, talking to the police, and finding an attorney.
The app is easy to use, and has a helpful function called “Find My Way.” When you open the app, the “Find My Way” bar provides users with a step-by-step menu on where to begin. You may not be sure under which of the categories your particular problem falls, and this function addresses that obstacle. The “Find My Way” option begins with five common reasons people may want to use the app: “I need help and someone to talk to,” “I am worried about harassment or stalking,” “I am worried that someone knows too much,” “I want tips on how to increase my privacy,” and “I want someone to know what’s happening.” Clicking on any of the choices brings users to further step-by-step options designed to help them find what they are looking for. This is a great function for those unsure of where to start.
Everyone can benefit from this app. It is a wonderful tool for anyone who may be experiencing harassment via technology themselves or have friends or family members who are having this experience. It is also a wonderful educational tool for those who want to learn about a widespread issue that can affect anyone. It educates users on the nature and dynamics of harassment and abuse through technology, and includes informative descriptions of various tactics used by abusers. For instance, did you know that a phone’s Caller ID can be manipulated to hide the real phone number of the caller? Perpetrators can use various technological services to change the phone number, their voice, add background noise, or record harassing or abusive phone calls. This can make it incredibly difficult to identify the perpetrator. The Tech Safety App tells users about such practices and explains that state and federal laws forbid someone from manipulating caller ID with the intent to harass or harm another individual. It also notes that there are services that can expose masked Caller ID numbers and reveal the actual number of the caller.
The app reminds users that safety is most important. If you believe you may be harassed or abused through technology, or are being threatened, consider whether the harassing, threatening or abusive person may be able to learn that you are seeking resources or information, and whether he/she may be likely to escalate their abusive or harassing behavior upon discovering you are seeking information or support. If yes, or if you are not sure, Tech Safety encourages users to use this app from a device to which an abusive person does not have access.
If you are interested in downloading the Tech Safety App, visit techsafetyapp.org for more information.
Taylor Flagg, B.A., is a Graduate Student in the Justice Studies Program at the University of New Hampshire and a Graduate Researcher at Prevention Innovations Research Center. Taylor earned her B.A. in both History and Justice Studies from the University of New Hampshire. Her passions in social justice are concentrated in global crime and inequalities facing women. She hopes to enter a career in social justice following completion of her degree.