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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Police warning over hi-tech harassment
Sending text message
Stalking can take many forms
Teenagers are using mobile phone text messages and email to stalk their former boyfriends and girlfriends when relationships break down, police have warned.

The growth of hi-tech harassment has emerged as police in London begin to distribute a guide designed to help parents protect their children from unwanted attention.


As technology develops, it is easier to make contact with people - and stalkers will take advantage of that

Detective Inspector Hamish Brown

The Metropolitan Police has recorded 121 reports of harassment of children aged 10-18 in the last 12 months under the 1997 Protection From Harassment Act.

Two-thirds of the victims were female.

Most of the stalking offences reported to the police resulted from the ending of a teenage relationship, with the stalker persisting in contacting a former boyfriend or girlfriend.

However, some cases involved paedophiles "grooming" children for abuse while others saw adults harassing children as a way of carrying out a vendetta against their parents.

The leaflet, entitled Protection from Stalking and Harassment - A Guide to Minimising the Risk to Children, will be distributed to schools and libraries across London as well as being made available in police stations.

'Vary route to school'

Detective Inspector Hamish Brown, who wrote the leaflet, said young people stalking each other by text message and email was "pretty common".

He said: "Stalking is any form of unwanted attention. As technology develops, it is easier to make contact with people - and stalkers will take advantage of that."

The leaflet says parents should advise their children to vary their route to and from school if they are experiencing difficulties, and should be encouraged to carry a mobile phone and know who to call in an emergency.

It also gives advice on keeping a record of events to help police build a prosecution.

Parents should encourage their children to use nicknames on the internet which do not reveal their gender, and not to give out personal information, the leaflet advises.

Families should also consider keeping computers in shared parts of the home - rather than a child's bedroom - so parents can monitor the websites that children are visiting.

'Devious and manipulative'

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens said: "It's a popular misconception that stalking is exclusively associated with celebrities.

"However, the overwhelming majority of victims are ordinary people, and while most of these people are adults, children can just as easily be victims of stalking.

"We want parents and others who have responsibility for children to have access to simple, practical advice and information on the subject.

"Stalkers can be devious and manipulative people. The methods of stalking are not restricted simply to following a child or youngster about.

"They can take many forms - including sending letters, emails, telephoning and - something that is becoming more common now - texting.

"Parents need to be alert to the issues and understand how to address them."

See also:

03 Oct 02 | Entertainment
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