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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Youngsters targeted by digital bullies
Many youngsters receive bullying text messages
More than one in four youngsters in the UK has been threatened via their computers or mobile phones, according to a survey.

Children's charity NCH, which commissioned the research, now wants young people to be taught how to deal with 21st-Century bullying techniques.

And it wants parents and teachers to be given guidance on how to tackle the problem.

Bullied by
Text: 16%
Web: 7%
E-mail: 4%
Of the 856 people aged between 11 and 19 asked, 16% had received bullying or threatening text messages, 7% had been harassed in internet chatrooms and 4% by e-mail.

NCH cited one 15-year-old boy who had given his mobile number to a friend in a football chatroom. After they fell out, he received text messages threatening to find out where he lived, beat him up and even kill him.

Eventually his mobile provider allowed him to change his number, and the threats stopped.

Death threats

The associate director of NCH's children technology unit, John Carr, told BBC News Online most text bullying was by schoolmates.

One child at a west London school outlined the kind of threatening messages that circulated, saying: "I'm going to kill you, watch your step, don't look back, don't look at me doing this during classes... I'm outside your house, I'm going to burn your house down."

NCH tips for victims
Be careful who you give your mobile or e-mail address to
Tell an adult you trust what is happening
Change your number/e-mail address if there is a problem
Write down times and dates you receive upsetting messages
Report them to a trusted adult or the police
Mr Carr called on schools to upgrade and amend existing bullying policies to ensure they covered the new digital tactics.

Many schools have banned mobiles from their premises, because of problems such as bullying and theft - but Mr Carr said this was not enough.

"Teachers should make it clear that harassing people through text message or the internet, even if it's outside school hours or outside the gates, is still a serious matter that will be dealt with."

Liz Carnell, director of Bullying Online, agreed that parents and teachers should do more to address the problem.

She said her charity had started receiving complaints about text bullying shortly after Christmas 2000, when many teenagers received mobiles as presents.

'Extremely distressing'

Eventually it received so many complaints of "death threats and hate messages" that it set up a web page dedicated solely to mobile bullying.

"It's extremely distressing and some children have become suicidal over it."

NCH safe surfing tips
Never give out personal information like your home address
Do not post a picture of yourself
Never meet a key-pal in the real world without a trusted adult
Report any upsetting messages
Leave a chat room the moment anything worries you
As for the children being bullied, both Mr Carr and Ms Carnell said they should alert a "trusted adult" as soon as possible.

Of those who told NCH they had been bullied, a third had told no one, while almost half of those who did speak out told only their friends.

Mr Carr said after telling a trusted adult, children should make a note of the time and date of each message received.

They should alert their mobile or internet account provider, who may change their e-mail address or phone number for free.

If the messages do not stop, both experts said, victims should not be afraid to go to the police.

'Extremely invasive'

Carrie Herbert, from the Red Balloon School, which specialises in dealing with bullied children, said electronic bullying was even more intrusive than the more conventional kind.

"Children who are being bullied in the classroom and in the playground can at least get some kind of sanctuary at home.

"With this kind of bullying, the text messaging can come up while you are watching television, while you are having a family meal.

"It is extremely invasive."

The BBC's James Westhead
"These days, the bully is never more than a beep away"
John Carr of the National Children's Home
"We are talking about crimes like stalking"

Digital bullying
How can it be stopped?

Newsround's bullying guide
Advice for bullied kids

See also:

15 Apr 02 | UK
Attacked by text message
28 Nov 01 | Education
Bullying cases 'frighteningly high'
16 Mar 01 | Scotland
Text message bullies action call
16 Jan 01 | Education
Girl tormented by phone bullies
09 Mar 00 | Education
Bullies use mobile phone threats
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