“When 17-year-old Jo Parsons blagged her way into a local nightclub for an evening out, she was flattered when a man she’d never met came over and offered to buy her a drink. But pleasure soon turned to anxiety. He refused to stop talking and she gradually realised that he knew much too much about her: what her friends were called, where she lived, her birthday, even her favourite music. He had been stalking her online. In fact, it was still going on: one of his mates was reading her social networking pages and send him phone updates about interests he could pretend to share with her. Furious, she threw her drink in his face and stormed off.
This isn’t a true story: it’s fiction. But it’s part of a fiction that has been experienced more than 260,000 times by online users – mostly teenagers – over the past six months. That’s because this scenario is one of 13 that together comprise Smokescreen, a free-to-play “alternate reality game” commissioned by Channel 4 Education that is intended to give teenage players a personal encounter with everything from identity theft to cyber stalking.”