By Sarah Newton
There is a new form of bullying hitting the streets and no surprise, the new culprits are the mobile phone and the Internet.
Unlike in my day when you could walk away from the bully, see their face and turn the other cheek, these new bullies are anonymous and operate 24/7, making it impossible for your young people to walk away as you could in the good old days.
One 14-year-old who I was recently working with was barraged by e-mails and text messages at all hours, day and night. These messages contained information that you would normally associate with a stalker. She also found vicious lies spread about her on a school website. She got so scared that she was delivered and picked up from school and spent a few weeks off school sick. Not knowing the bully was in some ways far worse than being able to confront this person face to face.
So what do you do if you find your teenager is subject to this kind of bullying?
1. Firstly, ensure that you have created an open environment where your teenager can come and speak with you, and listen in a non-judgemental manner. After you have read this, peak with your teenager ad let them know that if anything like this happens, they can come and talk to you and you will support them.
2. When your teenager opens up to you don't jump down their throat with a solution, ask them what they want first, what support they want in general. Have them tell you before you jump to conclusions. Your teenagers may have a solution that you would never have thought of.
3. Sending malicious messages is an offence under the Telecommunications Act, so if your teenager wants, inform the police. Many times they can trace the numbers that the calls and e-mails are coming from and a quiet word in that person's ear most often does the trick. (This type of bullying relies on the bully being anonymous and when they are rumbled, it nearly always stops).
4. Contact the mobile phone company and your server provider; let them know your difficulty and ask what they can do. Quite often, Internet providers can block at source the information coming in from that user.
5. Take this seriously. Just because you cannot see or don't know the bully does not mean it is any less traumatic for your teenager. In many cases they feel worse as friends and teacher tell them not to worry and everyone assumes it is just someone playing a practical joke. For them this is real, and unlike normal bullying they cannot tell because they often don't know who it is.
6. Get support, whatever solution you and your teen come to, you will need support. Ask them who can support them through this; is there a friend, teacher or adult who can help them? Ensure that while your teen implements the plan that you have come up with together, they have someone other than you that they can turn to.
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