Text Bullying

May 6, 2008 11:58:41 AM PDT
You've heard of bullying on the playground and maybe even on the Internet, but you probably have not heard of text bullying.The Anti-Defamation League says it's a serious problem at schools everywhere and worse than traditional bullying. Children use cell phones to act as "text bullies."

"Your mama is this, your mama is that or your face is stupid," said Jaime Arrieta, elementary school student.

It's easy to do, in your face and mean.

"It lowers their morale and brings their self esteem down," said Libby Robbins, junior high school student.

"They call each other all kinds of curse words," said Cartier Brown, high school student.

Experts and students say it can be more harmful than face-to-face bullying

"Think it's harder to bully someone and see their reaction and see that it really hurts, but when you're just texting or talking online, you're not seeing how it reacts," said Sam Kaplan, junior high school student.

"When you are sitting in the comforts of your own home and all you have are your thumbs and a little device, it is easier to say things that are more harsh and more hurtful," said Lonnie Nasatir, A.D.L., regional director.

It's also more direct than cyberbullying on the Internet. You see, it's easier to delete an e-mail or set up privacy protection options on social networking sites, but it's hard to ignore a text message, which instantly pops up on your phone. You also can't block texts, which can be sent to the masses.

"Someone sent out a mass text message about him having an STD and it wasn't true," said Annie Quast, high school student.

"It could be a group of people deciding, 'Oh let's text this one person.' They all decide to get together and send it," said Libby.

The majority of schools don't allow cell phone use during school. When an offense occurs outside of school hours, it's harder for administrators to officially punish students. But that doesn't stop them from getting involved.

"Our philosophy is if there are things going on outside of school that impact what happens inside of school. So we work with kids; we work with parents. Our social workers are involved in working with victims and bullies," said David Palzet, Wilmette junior high, principal.

At Wilmette Junior High School, social workers, teachers and the principal are tackling the taunting. They recently invited an Internet and technology safety advocate, to talk to students.

"The message to children is, think before you click or send. And oftentimes I say to them, 'Don't send a text message that you don't want your grandmother to read," said Charlene Entman, Internet technology safety advocate.

She also urges victims to not keep the text bullying a secret. Some kids do out of fear of losing cell phone privileges. The Anti-Defamation League urges victims to first report the vicious texts and then delete them. Don't dwell on the message.

"It's happening on a regular basis, and it is extremely painful for students it leaves them to not want to come to school," said Jennifer Nielsen, ADL, associate director.

And as one teen puts it, the humiliation can be endless.

"They can make chain letters about people, take pictures of people doing stuff in class, like picking their nose or sleeping or something, and add really mean soundtracks in the background, write really mean stuff in their send it to everyone in their phone book," the teen said.

The Anti-Defamation League says parents should check their child's phone to make sure they're not sending or receiving mean messages.

For more information on groups and programs to fight cyber bullying and text bullying visit:

http://www.teenangels.org/

http://www.stoptextbully.com/

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