Text bullying much like cyber bullying is fairly new, due to advancements in technology teens are able to bully others in more create ways. Bullies are no longer limited to verbal or physical bullying. Keep reading for more on how bullies use text messaging to harass others and how to prevent being a victim.
Text bullying has become a serious problem among adolescents and teens. It can have devastating consequences, and parents may not even know it’s occurring. Parents can play an important role in preventing text bullying and helping teens who have been the victim of a bullying through text messages.
Text bullying is sending mean, embarrassing, untrue, or hurtful message to or about someone using cell phone text messaging. This can also include sexting, or sending sexually suggestive text messages to someone or about someone.
Many kids get cell phones when they are in middle school, which is when bullying, including text bullying, is most common. Approximately 9 out of 10 teens have a cell phone, and about 1 in 5 will be victims of a text bully. About 1 in 10 teens engage in text bullying. Bullying via text messaging has become more common than traditional bullying, especially among girls.
There are several factors that can make text bullying more damaging than traditional bullying for both the victim and the bully:
- It can happen 24 hours a day, even at home, which is usually a refuge from bullying, so it can feel inescapable.
- Text bullies are often much meaner because they don’t have to see their victims.
- The victims may not know who is sending the text messages, which can be frightening.
- Teens may think text bullying is anonymous and that they can’t get caught. They also may use someone else’s phone to send the messages. Text bullying can often be traced, however, and the bully, as well as his or her parents, can face criminal penalties as a result.
- Victims often respond by sending mean messages back to the bully, becoming bullies themselves.
- Sexting is against the law and can result in child pornography charges for the sender or senders even if they are minors.
- Text bullying doesn’t necessarily go away. It may get passed around and it can end up where someone, like a potential boss, will see it in the future. This can harm the victim further, and can be even more damaging for the bully, who may miss out on job opportunities because of the text messages they sent.
Text bullying can have many negative repercussions for the victim:
- Social withdrawal
Bullies also often suffer from depression, and the bully and his or her family may face legal charges for text bullying.
Parents may be tempted to take away a teen’s cell phone to prevent text bullies from harassing a victim, or if he or she is already a victim, but this deprives teens of social connections that are very important to them and feels like a punishment for something that isn’t their fault. Fear of losing their cell phones is a major reason why teens don’t report text bullying. There are, however, other ways that parents can help combat the effects of text messages from bullies:
- Talk to your kids about text bullying and why it is wrong. Tell them if they ever are the victim that it’s not their fault and they won’t be punished. They should not respond to the bullying, but instead should save it to report to a parent. If the message is sexual or threatening in nature they can report it to the police, who can trace it and take legal action against the bully.
- Consider having a cell phone use contract with your teen that forbids text bullying, including forwarding mean messages, even if someone else starts it. Take away the cell phone for a set period of time if the teen text bullies anyone. You can also limit the times when teens can use their cell phones, such as requiring them to turn it off at night, and reserve the right to ask questions about whom the teen is texting and what they are texting about.
- If your child does not yet have a cell phone, wait until they are in high school to allow it.
- Encourage your child’s school to ban cell phones during school hours.
- Teach teens not to accept calls from someone they don’t know.
- Encourage teens to think before sending messages, and not to send a message they wouldn’t want everyone else to see since they don’t know if the person they send a message to may forward it to others, or if they are even texting the person they think they are.
- Help teens block numbers that are sending mean text messages.
- Tell teens not to let anyone else use their phone to send messages.
- If the text bullying is serious, contact the cell phone company to get the teen a new phone number and have the teen be very careful about who they give it to.
- If the teen knows who the bully is, let the bully’s parents know what they are doing. If the text bullying doesn’t stop, make the parents aware that they may face legal action if it doesn’t stop, and be prepared to consult an attorney if necessary.
It is important for teens who are the victims of text bullying to know that they should not blame themselves for it, and that you care about them and think they are worthwhile regardless of what the bully says.
Committee for Children, Cyber Bullying and Media Safety, “Dealing with Text Message Bullying” [online]
Kathy Brock, ABC News, “Text Bullying” [online]
Stop Bullying Now, “Cyberbullying” [online]