The Boy Next Door: What Are the Lessons to Learn?

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The erotic thriller “The Boy Next Door” follows the dangerous and intense relationship between vulnerable divorcee Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) and her 19-year old boy next door Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman). Things develop quickly, culminating in an R-rated interlude, after which (spoiler alert) everything goes to hell. Noah turns out not to be a strong, sensitive orphan but a control freak treading that well-worn line between stalker and psychopath. And to make matters worse (not such a spoiler alert), he lives right next door.

While the film is campy Hollywood attempting to reinvigorate the erotic thriller genre days of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, things like this do happen in real life. According to The Stalking Prevention, Awareness, & Resource Center, one in six women have experienced stalking, most often by someone they knew. Officially, for criminals in the US, a fifth of stalkers use weapons to hurt or intimidate their victims.

So as well as being entertained by the rapidly disintegrating relationship on screen, here are some lessons we can learn from the movie to help keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Be Aware of Stalking

The first step toward preventing anything is to be aware of it. Stalking is legally defined as a pattern of behavior that includes consistently following and harassing someone in a way that would cause fear in a reasonable person. Although most victims of stalking are women, it affects men, too. The figures are not entirely accurate because many cases remain unreported. Raising awareness of stalking and being vocal about what this kind of harassment is can help.

Exercise Caution in New Relationships

When it comes to safety, a relationship should be something people develop, not something one person dives into. Whether it’s a friendship or an intimate relationship, it’s wise to take things slowly with a new relationship. Take the time to consider who the person is and what they want before sharing personal, private, or confidential information.

The thrill of a new relationship, especially an intimate one, can be exciting, fulfilling, and intoxicating. But, just as in The Boy Next Door, things can go wrong. It’s wise to be cautious about how much you share with a new person.

Use Technology

In The Boy Next Door, Noah uses technology to harass his victim. Claire uses a computer to help discover that he’s been lying about his past. Lesson: use technology to help keep you safe, and don’t wait until it’s too late.

Use Nuwber to verify people’s details. It can help you confirm their locations and occupations, for example. So you can use Nuwber’s massive database of US citizens to see if their story adds up or not. Stay in touch with trusted friends and family by using a cell phone to check in regularly and using location services to share your location.

Trust Your Instincts

Claire realizes pretty quickly that she’s made a mistake getting involved with Noah. Unfortunately for her, she underestimates how bad things can get.

If you have a bad feeling about someone but you can’t explain why trust your instincts. This doesn’t mean that you should pepper spray them on sight, of course, but you should not allow yourself to remain in a situation where you do not feel comfortable. You should exercise your right to end a conversation or leave a location. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Secure Your Computer!

Noah hacks Claire’s password to further his stalking activity and to make her life more difficult. She might have avoided this plot point if she’d taken some cyber security advice.

Protecting your computer with a strong password can help prevent being hacked. The most common passwords include “password” and “123456.” If these look familiar, change your computer password to include at least:

  • one capital letter
  • one symbol, and
  • one number.

A long password is typically better than a short one. Avoid consecutive numbers. And avoid people’s names or real words you might find in a dictionary.

Change your password regularly. You won’t necessarily know if your computer’s data is compromised. Changing your password can lock out someone who quietly gained access.

The easiest way to gain access to another person’s computer is to simply sit down and start using it while they are not there. If you leave your computer unattended, log out or turn your device off when you’re not using it.

Beware of Sextortion

Sextortion is when someone threatens to distribute sensitive material if you don’t provide them with sexual images or favors. Like many people, Claire learns about this the hard way.

It can be fun to play with intimate picture-taking but know that images shared online never really go away. You can “delete” them, but they remain on servers and the computers of anyone who has already downloaded them. Once out, there is no putting those genies back in the box.

Criminals are out there who trick or manipulate their victims into sharing illicit sexual images. They can then use those very same images to blackmail their victims into providing more and more sexual material. In the movie, for example, Noah says that he will give up a video of him and Claire sleeping together if she continues to sleep with him.

Unfortunately, this is a lesson that needs to be taught to people of all ages. Increasingly, children and teens are victims of this criminal activity.

Remember We All Have a Past

Claire’s friend Vicky discovers that Noah was expelled from his previous school for disorderly conduct. Knowing that might have predicted and prevented future violence. Remember that everyone has a past. Most people have done things they are not proud of or might not wish to bring up during the formative part of a relationship. So proceed with new relationships with caution.

Learn these lessons from The Boy Next Door to help ensure that the nightmare relationships in your life only occur in the cinema. In the digital age, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself on and offline. It’s also possible to use internet resources to protect yourself. Have fun while being sure to trust your instincts, proceed with caution, and be proactive about staying safe.

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