The Month of the Military Child

Christine Chapeau, Director of Partner Relations at Cybercrime Support Network

April is the Month of the Military Child. For firsthand perspective on how cybercrime affects military children, we’re interviewing Christine Chapeau. Christine is a military spouse with two children.  She has plenty of personal experience and valuable insight to share on the topic.

Q1: Why are military children targeted by cybercriminals?

“Military children, unfortunately, can become “easy” targets for cyberbullies and online predators hiding behind a fake identity. There are several reasons for this. They have to move very often, sometimes every 2 to 3 years, which means that they have to find new friends every single time they move. They most often move during the summer months when school is out, which makes it even harder for them to find friends at the new duty station. However, sometimes they even have to move during the ongoing school year and will have to face uncomfortable situations inside and outside of the classroom where students treat them as outsiders. Moreover, they face separation from either one or even both parents. Separation due to deployment, temporary or permanent change of station, or because of divorce are unfortunately very common. Because of all of this, military children face emotional roller coasters that make them especially vulnerable to cyberbullies and online predators.”

Q2: What emotional factors make these children more vulnerable to social engineering?

“Military children often feel lonely, or like they don’t belong (especially when they move during the school year). This loneliness and feeling of not belonging increases the chances for them to turn to social media and different online platforms to find new friends. However, they haven’t met these friends in person, and how would they know that a 14-year-old boy/girl on the other end is who they say they are?”

Q3: What is your personal experience with cybercrime as a military spouse with children?

“I have been a military spouse for over 17 years now, and have two children: a fourteen-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. As a family, we experienced several moves, two of them overseas and back. The last one has been especially difficult for both my children because both my teenage daughter and my son had to say goodbye to really close friends. Upon arriving at my husband’s new duty station, they were having a hard time finding new friends, especially outside of school. Moreover, my teenage daughter had a hard time finding new friends in school because she came to the new school in the middle of the school year, so all the girls in her grade had their circle of friends and my daughter was “the new girl.” These are the tough times’ military children face all the time and what makes them so vulnerable to cyberbullying and targets for online predators. They try and find new friends on social media and different online platforms, often even before arriving at the new duty station. Moreover, many children nowadays have their own cell phones or smartphones and exchange their numbers easily. When military children come to new schools, they want to find new friends fast, which makes them vulnerable to cyberbullying. They may exchange their phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts with anybody who calls them a “friend” at first. But these “friends” can turn around and post hurtful stuff about them online. This happened to a girl at my daughter’s school when she transferred in the middle of the year.”

Q4: How can we help?

“I think a great way for CSN and CSN’s partners to help is to raise awareness about the vulnerabilities of military children and to spread the word about the resources available especially to children and teenagers in general and military children in particular. FraudSupport.org not only offers resources for children and teenagers for cyberbullying and other cyber-related crimes but also resources for military families. It’s a great resource for military families to protect their children from cyberbullies and predators. Families can utilize the site for resources to report a crime, recover from it, and learn how to reinforce their cybersecurity so that this doesn’t happen to their children again in the future.” 

April 15th is Purple Up Day! Wear purple to recognize for military children and their sacrifices. Visit the Military Child Education Coalition’s toolkit to learn more about the Month of the Military Child and how you can show support for military children.