SMS bully attacks still rising
05 December 2004
Sunday Mail

MOBILE phone text-bullying is increasing with more than a quarter of teens being harassed by unwanted SMS messages.

Email and voicemail also are being used as weapons of hate, attacking victims in their homes.

A survey of 250 students in Years 7 to 12 and 166 parents of adolescents, commissioned by the Australian Psychology Association, found cyber-bullying was commonplace.

The national survey found 29 per cent of students had received messages from someone they did not want contact with, while 10 per cent said they had received threatening messages on their mobile.

The younger group of adolescents was significantly more likely to have received threatening messages than the older ones, suggesting this form of bullying may be more common in the early secondary school years.

Mission Australia's SA manager Mark Herselman said there had been a rise in text-bullying cases reported to his organisation's youth services.

"It's a very complicated issue," Mr Herselman said.

"Some of the young people involved in our services say it's less of a problem to them than face-to-face bullying because it's not as personal or physical.

"Others say it's worse because you can't get away from it; the texts can land on your phone wherever you are and at any hour.

"The sad thing is it underlines how many young people deal with bullying as an everyday issue and regard it in many ways as something that can't be prevented."

British research suggests more than a third of primary school children with mobile phones receive name-calling text messages, while 10 per cent hadreceived a more serious level of threats which could be classified as bullying.

Mission Australia's National Youth Survey shows young people are increasingly concerned about bullying and emotional abuse.

Mr Herselman said the important thing was for parents, schools and young people to be aware of the impact of bullying in any form, and to have strategies to deal with it.

Mission Australia has incorporated cyber-bullying as an issue in its youth services.

"The important thing is to encourage young people to respond to cyber-bullying in the same way they should to any other form of bullying," Mr Herselman said.

"At Mission Australia, we would encourage them not to retaliate or respond to texts so they don't give the bully the kick he or she is looking for.

"We also encourage young people who are particularly affected to go to someone in authority – a parent, school counsellor or even the police if they have to.

"Cyber-bullying is an offence."

The Australian Psychological Society has tips for responsible adolescent mobile phone use:

PARENTS should ask their children to keep their mobile phones on when away from home without supervision so they can always be contacted.

PARENTS and adolescents should discuss expectations regarding mobile phone use and form an agreement when the phone is bought to ensure their understandings match.

IF parents are concerned about their teenager's mobile phone use, rules should be implemented as soon as the phone is bought to ensure poor habits do not develop because they are more difficult to change later on.

PARENTS should encourage teenagers to discuss openly with them if they feel they are the victim of mobile phone bullying or harassment.