Given the digital world today, it’s not surprising that there are distinctions in bullying behavior that occurs online. In the case of text bullying, it is a mean or offensive or even threatening type of communication using TXT or PXT messaging as the delivery method. This often comes across on a person’s smartphone or tablet in the form of an instant message or chat.
Text bullying is particularly troublesome because it is much harder to trace online than a regular email harassment. Unlike email, texting doesn’t leave a distribution trail that can be followed back to a sender. The only way to prove the communication was sent is to find the text messages on the person’s device before he or she deletes it. Further, normal account scanning won’t find the messages as in the case of email accounts. A search has to include the actual device used to send the message to find a clear link.
With kids, text bullying happens most often with school age children ranging from upper level grade school to high school. Texting is far more popular than email because it can be transmitted so quickly. It is, in effect, the closest thing to real time talking with another person on a digital platform. In many cases, the trigger for text bullying usually involves the break up or failure of some kind of friendship or dating relationship.
Signs of text bullying will often include depression, cutting off from socialization at home, embarrassment, fear of the matter getting worse, and concern that the text bully will involve others. All of these issues can contribute to a child being agitated, frustrated at not having a solution, and being angry a lot.
To make matters worse, those who find themselves being a recipient of text bullying aren’t likely to speak up about the problem. There’s a common fear that the parent will remove access to the phone or the computer to stop the problem. Unfortunately, while at first a case of text bullying may seem controllable, the problem can get out of control. It starts as an annoyance and can continue to get worse, especially if threats are involved.
Parents should always try to keep an open communication channel with their kids, especially once they start using a smartphone or computer on a regular basis for communication. By allowing for a channel through which a child can ask for help, it makes it easier later when being harassed not to be embarrassed into silence.
Text bullying can easily grow out of control, starting with a sentence of frustration to becoming anger to eventually becoming a threat to get a reaction. Many schools and jurisdictions are realizing the emotional power such bullying can have on a student, particularly if the child feels he or she is being blackmailed by someone over a past issue.
Just shutting off one device usually won’t solve the problem either. Instigators will often focus on finding out what other devices a victim has and then will start sending texts to those tools as well. In many cases the perpetrator has to be brought out into the open via a sting where the activity is caught red-handed. Fortunately, schools have begun treating text bullying as a very serious matter that needs to be shut down when confirmed.
In extreme cases parents and affected children should not feel hesitant or afraid to include police involvement to stop text bullying. Many jurisdictions now have laws on the books that make repeat text bullying a crime, and the perpetrator can be arrested and charged if conclusively caught sending threats and bullying language. In some specific cases, children responsible for text bullying received jail sentences and community work for being so vindictive in their digital communications.
No one should feel embarrassed if suddenly being a victim of text harassment. Instead, the child or person should do as much as possible to identify the bully, and then the proper authorities should be notified. Fortunately, many cases are resolved after authorities make first contact with a texting bully. The perpetrator realized the matter is serious and stops. That said, where problems continue or get worse, the police should be brought in to solve the matter.