October 2007

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Young people asking for help against text bullying

So far this year, more than 150 calls have been received by NetSafe - the Internet Safety Group - from people experiencing text bullying or other kinds of harassment via mobile phones or the internet.

Almost 50 percent of those calls have been serious enough for NetSafe to advise the caller to contact Police, usually because of threats of harm.

“Some calls have been extremely serious, involving young people being groomed for sexual abuse and people attempting suicide,” says Rachel Harrison, NetSafe Communications Manager.

Last year, NetSafe worked closely with Police, Telecom and Vodafone to standardise procedures and produce guidelines for Police on handling text bullying and mobile phone harassment.

Rachel says mobile phones are an integral part of social life, especially for young people often connected 24/7.

“We’re finding when young people ask for help with harassment, it’s because they have tried several responses to the problem already, and don’t have any more strategies to deal with it.”

NetSafe recently had an example where a girl was being threatened by another girl via mobile phone, over a relationship.

The victim’s mother contacted NetSafe very upset about the effect of the harassment and threats on her daughter.

She was referred to a Youth Aid Officer and ultimately a trespass order had to be served on the bully for the victim’s school and home. After the trespass order was served, a txt was received saying:

“U r goin 2 f**k regret evah gtn a trespas order nme u b***h u watch out im atti goin 2 kill u trepas order or not. got it I WILL KILL U”.

The victim and her mother went straight to Police who intervened with the bully.

The mother has subsequently been in touch with NetSafe to let them know the “Police were wonderful ...”


The mother also thanked NetSafe. “So many, many thanks, and I will recommend your service to anyone else should they ever find themselves in this situation.”


Disabling a bully’s phone

Police can ask a victim’s phone company to take immediate action against a bully in the form of a warning or by requesting the bully’s mobile phone be disabled.

If the victim and the bully are with different phone providers, the phone companies have protocols to deal with the harassment.

NetSafe can help by giving information and advice to the victim, Police, schools or anyone else involved in the incident.

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