Teen stalking – More than a crush

Stalking is a crime. Regardless of your reasons, it is wrong to repeatedly do something that harasses someone, invades their privacy, invades their space, repeatedly intrudes on their life or continually degrades them to the point where they are fearful.

The concept of stalking as we know it is a very new concept. Often seen as just infatuation or unrequited love, stalking was in the past seen as almost something flattering. Before the late 1980s it was unusual to hear or people stalking others, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the word, stalker, started to hit the press and usually in relation to those that obsessively followed certain celebrities.

These days, we need to take stalking very seriously because we know:

(a) Stalking is a warning or red flag about future violence and

(b) Stalking causes psychological damage to victims

In the last few years, people have become more concerned about their privacy and at the same time, the capacity to track, monitor or pry on someone in various ways has never been greater. Although celebrities are in a high risk group, you don’t have to be famous anymore to be stalked.

In a way, stalking can be seen as bullying that has been taken to the next level. Researchers have separated stalking from bullying – where stalking goes beyond the school into the domestic or social situation in the wider community

So, what do we know about stalking among teens and young people?

  • We know that being stalked during childhood or adolescence can compromise emotional wellbeing, and interrupt education. Stalking can lead to fear and mistrust that can interfere with social and interpersonal functioning amongst those who have been targeted. Those who have engaged in stalking can face school suspensions, expulsion and legal consequences
  • We know that stalking is more likely to occur in certain situations for young people
    • dealing with disputes amongst friends
    • trying to start or terminate relationship
    • intense infatuation (usually with a celebrity but it could be a teacher or an older friend).
  • We know that stalking is much bigger than having a crush and people need to be careful not to minimise stalking behaviour or dismiss it as being a crush. Stalkers will typically put a good deal of time, mental energy and even money into their attempts to invade a person’s life.

In Australia – sometimes attempts are made to manage stalking behaviour by getting a restraining order. About seven years ago, researchers studied restraining orders that had been taken out by young people or taken against young people and found….

  • most victims knew the perpetrator 98{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de}
  • 50{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de} reported being physically assaulted
  • most involved a current or ex-friend 47{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de}, an ex boyfriend or girlfriend 21{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de}, neighbour 14{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de}
  • Stalking included unwanted approaches, phone calls, texts, following, cyberstalking, spreading malicious rumours. Most victims reported being threatened 75{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de} or having a friend or relative threatened 15{ba4639bc087185d97391fd5d15a50de89571c56f25425ee41c30a195518528de} and threats ranged in nastiness from general threats to threats of harm, death, and sexual assault.

Being seven years old now, this research probably does not really capture a lot that goes on these days with online or cyber-stalking. Also, it is important to point out that young people can be affected by stalking in the context of parental separation as well. Children can be caught up as secondary victims as one parent tries to manage how they are feeling by invading the life of the other parent – leaving the children in an emotionally vulnerable sometime physically vulnerable position.

Clearly, people who engage in stalking behaviour to try to deal with their emotions need a proper assessment. We want to deal with anything that is going wrong for them to stop them doing hurtful things to others, also we need to look at the risk for self harm. Many have long histories of problems, limited ways to solve problems, social skills issues, and need a tailor-made treatment. They need more than just anger management. Often, psychologists and other clinicians involved in their treatment need to have a more behavioural focus treatment rather than cognitive because often those who stalk others have problems with verbal skills. To most effectively treat a teen stalker, it is important that we understand the story around or the “type” of their stalking. Treatment might need to be different for someone who is stalking because they have experienced rejection rather than stalking because they are disorganised, enamoured or retaliating.

For those who are being stalked, there are some actions that they should definitely take. Sometimes restraining orders can be evocative – especially where there is a strong sense of entitlement. If you are frightened, it is best to notify police and ask that they investigate the stalking.

It is very, very, very, very, very, very, very important that if you are a young person who is being stalked and you are frightened, that you stop all contact with the person who is trying to stalk you and tell other people.

Many young people struggle with the idea of ceasing contact – especially if the stalker is threatening to harm him or herself.

My advice to young people who feel they are being stalked….

  • As soon as you get scared, tell the person to stop, tell a safe adult all about what is happening, and cut all further contact.
  • Don’t try to be nice to the stalker – even if they threaten to hurt themselves. If they threaten to hurt themselves if you cut contact, still cut contact but alert others (adults or authorities ) to the threats that they have made so that other people can ensure that they are safe.

Some young people are angry about the fear and disruption to their lives and they believe that cutting off people who are stalking them is “letting them get away with it”, but it is important that no one retaliates and that you hold your ground.

Cutting contact can also mean that you need to change your social media avatar, change your phone number and not share your details with anyone outside a small group or trusted friends and family.

If you are parenting, or caring for, a teen who is being stalked, you need to be sure that you watch to make sure they are following the “cease contact” advice.


Take it seriously. Stalking is a criminal offence and while it may be defined differently in each state, it is still seen as criminal for good reason.



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