What is Swatting? A Guide for Parents and Educators

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December 21, 2022

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

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Table of Contents

News reports around the country have highlighted swatting attacks at schools and homes.  Parents and educators can talk to their students about this trend to remind students of the serious consequences in participating in swatting or to reduce the chances of becoming a victim. 

In this SmartSocial resource, parents and educators will learn:

  1. What is swatting
  2. Examples from the news around the country
  3. What parents and educators can do

Parent & educator video lesson

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What is “swatting”?

  • Swatting is when someone makes a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to dispatch a large number of law enforcement officers (often a swat team) to a school or an unsuspecting victim at home
  • It is triggered by someone making an emergency call with the false report of a serious emergency such as a bomb threat, active shooter, murder, or hostage situation
  • 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 to start a swatting incident
  • Due to wasted resources and emergency services, swatting is described as terrorism
  • Making a false claim to emergency services is a federal crime in many countries and is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment
  • Not only is “swatting” a criminal offense 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 and what police departments say

Fake 'active shooter' threats continue to plague schools across US
In audio of one 911 call, someone claims that four students have been shot in a math class. That same evening, Enid, Okla., police arrested a local high school student who had allegedly made a hoax call to one of the schools as a prank. - Yahoo! news, Enid, Oklahoma
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 is swatting? 'Not the game you want to play with us'
The call prompted a significant response from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to the home. The victim… believes he was targeted because of the live streaming of games he plays on the online platform Twitch. - Fox 8

What can parents do to prevent swatting?

  • Show students examples of the consequences of fabricating an emergency and alerting a law enforcement agency to false police reports
  • Discuss the long term legal repercussions behind swatting calls
  • To prevent your students from becoming victims of swatting, talk to them about never revealing personal information like their names or home addresses in online gaming forums
  • Remind students that they can, and should, come to you if other players online ever threaten them or talk about “swatting”
  • 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
  • Ask your local police department if they have an anti swatting registry
  • As a family talk about whether students are allowed to play video games online, talk with strangers online, 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

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 could help protect your family and community. 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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