What you need to know to get the bullies off your back

The mobile phone industry has produced a practical guide to help young people receiving threatening and insulting calls and SMS to get the bullies off their back.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) today released a guide to assist young people and their parents cope with cyberbullying using mobile phones.

AMTA CEO Graham Chalker said bullying is not acceptable and it is important for young people to know that it is not their fault, they are not alone and, most importantly, there is something they can do about it.

“Bullying is not harmless. In some cases it can constitute criminal behaviour,” he said. “People are using mobile phones to send insulting, threatening or unpleasant voice, text and picture messages, either directly to their victims or to spread malicious rumours.”

Some steps for students who are bullied:

  • Protect Your Number: Prevent people getting hold of your number by only giving your phone number to friends; do not leave your mobile lying around; consider using caller ID blocking to hide your phone number when you call someone; unless you are sure you know – or want to know – a caller, do not give anyone information about yourself.

  • Do Not Respond: If you get an unwanted call or SMS, do not respond. Bullies get their kicks from knowing they have upset their victims. Do not give them the satisfaction.

    If you get an insulting message, keep it and record the time and date; it can be used as evidence. Tell your parents, your teacher or a trusted adult.

    If you do decide to respond, wait until you are no longer angry or upset. A calm and considered reply will not “reward” the bully.

  • You Can Get Help – The Law Is On Your Side: Bullies think they can get away with it and they are anonymous. They are wrong on both counts. It is a criminal offence to use a mobile phone to menace, harass or offend another person. Almost all malicious calls can be traced.

    Free professional help is available. Kids Help Line provides a counselling service that is accessible by all Australians aged 5-18 years.

    Your phone company may be able to help by stopping calls from some numbers or giving you a new phone number.

     If you feel physically threatened, the police in your State or Territory may be able to assist.

Mr Chalker said although schoolyard bullying is not new, the use of technology adds a new dimension to the problem and may make parents and others feel less equipped to tackle the problem.

“AMTA hopes our guides to students and parents will give them practical information to better understand and address this problem,” he said.

Mr Chalker said parents had a key role to play in helping their children cope with bullying.

“It is important to stay calm so that you can deal rationally and effectively with your child’s problem,” he said.

To help parents, there are some hints from experts:

  • Communicate: Listen to your child. Encourage them to discuss bullying with you. Be aware of your own reactions. Make it clear that being a target for bullying is not their fault. And (if relevant) assure them that you can help, despite not knowing nearly as much about mobile phones and computers as they do!

  • Help your child develop and implement strategies to deal with bullies: This might include general advice about trying to avoid seeing the bullies alone.

For more information about bullying prevention visit AMTA’s consumer tips web page, for other information on mobile phones please go to www.amta.org.au.