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What is Swatting? What Parents and Educators Need to Know

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What is Swatting? What Parents and Educators Need to Know

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News reports around the country have highlighted an alarming and disruptive trend targeting schools and innocent people known as “swatting.”  Swatting is an extreme form of online harassment where an individual falsely reports a serious crime at someone's address, prompting an immediate and often heavily armed police and often a swat team response. This not only endangers the lives of the unsuspecting victims but also strains valuable emergency response resources. Today, we at SmartSocial.com aim to shed light on this disturbing trend, its implications, and how communities can better protect themselves.

Parent & educator video lesson

What is “swatting”?

  • Swatting is when someone makes a hoax call to emergency services in an attempt to dispatch a large number of armed law enforcement officers to a particular address like a home or school
  • It is triggered by someone falsely claiming a serious emergency such as a school shooting, bomb threats, or hostage situations 
  • It has recently been in the news across the country as people call in false school shootings to authorities
  • Swatting is a common cyberbullying tactic used in the online gaming community
  • Online predators use doxing, or researching techniques, to find other gamers’ personal information like identity, address, and phone number
  • Due to wasted resources and emergency services, swatting is described as terrorism
  • Making false reports to emergency services is a criminal offense in many countries and many law enforcement agencies can punish with fines and/or imprisonment
  • Not only is “swatting” a crime, taking resources away from real emergencies, but it can also be deadly for innocent victims
  • This has happened to many public figures like Justin Bieber and Tom Cruise, but also at local schools, and to families at home as well

Swatting incidents in the news

Across North Carolina, school 'swatting' hoaxes waste time and create terro
The emotional toll is impossible to calculate. [A parent] says it was horrible for adults who feared for their children, “but I think for a learning environment where kids are carrying that stress and that anxiety constantly, that can’t be good for their mental health and subsequently can’t be good for the future of our country.” - WFAE.org
Coordinated 'swatting' effort may be behind hundreds of school shooting hoaxes
Over the past year, more than 500 schools in the United States have been subjected to a coordinated campaign of fear that exploits the all-too-real American danger of school shootings, according to a review of media reports and dozens of public records requests. The Washington Post examined police reports, emergency call recordings, body-camera footage or call logs in connection with incidents in 24 states. - The Washington Post

Cleveland FBI confirms 'swatting' incidents at multiple schools in Northeast Ohio
The FBI takes swatting very seriously because it puts innocent people at risk. While we have no information to indicate a specific and credible threat, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to gather, share, and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention. We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately. - FBI, WKYC 3

What can parents do to prevent swatting?

  • Remind students that they can, and should come to you if other players online ever threaten them or talks about “swatting”
  • Show students examples of the consequences of fabricating an emergency and alerting dispatch services to help prevent them from carrying this trend out on others
  • Talk to your students about never sharing personal information like their name or address in online accounts
  • If your student tells you they were threatened with swatting, contact your local law enforcement to report the threat
  • ~Ask your student to write down any information they can remember like the user’s name, when it happened, what they said, what game they were playing or what live-stream or video they were in, etc. 
  • ~Instruct your student to stop communicating with the other user making the threat immediately
  • If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied, remind them that they can always come to you or a trusted adult
  • As a family talk about whether students are allowed to play video games online, talk with strangers online in games or within social media platforms, stream their video game play live or record and share it
  • Look into a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for online gameplay or live streaming to help safeguard your family from online predators and doxxing
  • If you notice your student get upset or angry while playing online games, consider talking with them about what is going on and consider professional help if you feel they cannot control their reactions to video game play

More resources for parents, students, & educators

Conclusion

The dangers of swatting attacks extend far beyond the initial scare or confusion of its unsuspecting victims. It highlights a broader issue in our interconnected world, where online anonymity can sometimes shield malicious intentions and actions. If your students play online video games or live stream their games for strangers to see, having a discussion about what they know about swatting. Participating in swatting is a serious crime at the state and federal levels and can cause an extremely scary situation for your family and others.

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Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

StarStarStarStarStar

Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

StarStarStarStarStar

Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

StarStarStarStarStar

Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Learn more

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