New guide warns parents of bullying by mobile phone

 

PARENTS CAN help protect their children and teenagers from mobile phone-based bullying, according to a new guide produced by the Irish Cellular Industry Association (ICIA).

The mobile operators in Ireland – Vodafone, O2, Meteor and 3 – have come together to publish Mobile phones: A parent’s guide to safe and sensible use.

It is available in the operators’ retail outlets as well as on the websites www.vodafone.ie, www.o2.ie, www.meteor.ie, www.three.ie and www.icia.ie.

The booklet warns that young people using mobile phones can be bullied, communicate with people they should not, view online content that is unsuitable for their age and waste money.

However, when the owner of an account is a child, operators offer parents a service called “dual access”. This means parents can check the numbers their child has been calling and texting, and keep an eye on the amount of money spent. Parents can also ask operators to block certain services.

The guide was launched by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews, at Ibec headquarters in Dublin yesterday.

The Minister said about one in four Irish children reported bullying at school, referring to the findings of the recently-published State of the Nation’s Children report which was compiled by his office. “Obviously there’s a percentage of that which is cyber bullying and text and voice bullying. We have to be ahead of those developments in our policies.”

Mr Andrews said he had come across incidents of “the usual bullying” in his former role as a teacher. “The danger of internet and mobile phone-based bullying is that it’s anonymous. The perpetrator doesn’t see the consequences and is detached, so the normal social inhibitions don’t arise.”

Mr Andrews said there should be no question of young people fearing mobile phone technology, but they should “embrace it with care and caution”.

Meanwhile, the director of the ICIA, Tommy McCabe, said it could be difficult for busy parents to keep abreast of increasingly-sophisticated mobile phone technology. “This booklet outlines some of the simple measures for dealing with potential misuse of mobile phones.”

He said the guide would give parents an introduction to basic mobile phone uses, such as text messaging, as well as the more complex features available with modern handsets: web-surfing and expensive premium-rate services.

Parents should encourage their children to take care not to “flaunt” their phones in public in case they were stolen.

He said etiquette around the use of mobile phones was only now emerging, and parents should make their children aware that using their handsets in certain places was inappropriate.

The guide says children should not publish their number in a public forum. They should not reply to abusive or rude texts, picture or video messages, and they should never forward messages which could assist a bully or break the law.