You Can Beat the Texting Bullies
By John McNeil
Special to ASSIST News Service
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (ANS) - Christchurch anti-bullying campaigner Elgregoe has developed a set of tips for parents and children to combat cell phone text bullying.
As a magician, Elgregoe (Greg Britt in normal life) and his son Nicholas tour primary and intermediate schools around New Zealand presenting an anti-bullying program to Year 1 to 8 pupils.
He says he is hearing often from principals about texting and the problems it causes. Among schools he has visited lately was Putaruru, where a 12-year-old who had been bullied committed suicide at the beginning of the year.
While many schools are now trying to put policies in place, they are struggling.
“My own daughter has it down so well she can send a whole text message under the desk without looking at the phone. She can be talking to you while she is sending the text.
“At an intermediate school in Christchurch where we performed, a principal said he had 400 cell phones in his school. With that many phones there are always going to be situations of concern arise.”
Situations can range from nasty messages to circulating photos taken in toilets, to stalking. “Stalkers are really nasty. They are watching their victims while texting them. They enjoy watching their reactions. Some of these are sexual predators.”
Mr Britt says this can be quite tormenting for the victim, and puts her or him on an emotional roller coaster. He knows a girl who broke up with her boyfriend, but he kept texting her and she couldn’t get rid of him.
“She could be bright and chirpy, and then get a text message and you could see her face go glum and pale. This would last for an hour or two and she would just be coming right and she would get another text and go down again.
“The person sending the text is controlling whether someone has a good day or a bad day.”
Mr Britt said that in his experience Christian schools were not immune and one of his daughters was harassed at one.
While the messages could be kept as evidence and taken to school authorities or police, the kids seemed to be intimidated.
“They don’t talk about it, and it tends to go on too long before anything comes out. They say, ‘I can deal with it.’”
Some phone companies are bringing in measures whereby customers can send an offending text to the company and it will disconnect the offender’s service. But Mr Britt said the best thing parents could do was to talk about it around the dinner table.
“Just doing that can burst the balloon, so parents can do something about it. But sometimes there’s this sense of helplessness with kids.
“Another strategy is to get a good circle of friends and hang out with them, so they can protect you.”
BEAT THE BULLIES
Greg Britt has drawn up this list of tips, which, he says, can provide parents with strategies to deal with text bullying.
- If your child is quieter than normal or after you see him or her reading texts looking worried, ask: “Are you getting texts that are not nice or upsetting you?”
- It doesn’t hurt from time to time to bring up bullying around the dinner table. Say you have been reading about text bullying and ask if your child gets any bullying messages.
- If your child is receiving a nasty or offensive text, phone the network provider as soon as possible. It can send a warning text to the harasser so say that if it continues their phone may be cut off.
- If your child is receiving violent or life-threatening texts, contact the police immediately.
- Encourage your children to talk to you about bullying issues, so together you can work through a solution.
- Parents can help. You are not alone. If you are constantly receiving messages that upset or offend you, tell your parents so together you can knock the problem on the head before it gets out of hand.
- Do not give your phone details to someone you don’t know.
- Do not reply to any text that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- If you get a text from an unknown number, do not reply.
- Contact your network supplier immediately if you get a bully text. It can text the sender for you, and if the behaviour continues can disconnect his or her phone.
- Before sending a text or picture text, ask if you would be happy to receive such a message. If the answer is no, don't send it.
- If someone took a picture text of you and sent it on, you might be upset, so don't do it to anyone else without asking.
- Never use language or photos that would upset or offend others.
- In our school show, the message is all about treating others how you want to be treated, and this should also apply to your phone use. By sending texts that only you would like to receive, your day will be simply magic
John McNeil, a veteran of 40 years of newspaper and radio journalism, is a South Island reporter for Challenge Weekly, New Zealand’s non-denominational, independent national Christian newspaper.
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