Bluetooth used by text bullies

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
Children's commissioner Peter Clarke is to call on mobile phone companies to help end text bullying in Welsh schools.

Mr Clarke hopes to persuade big businesses to rethink Bluetooth services on certain mobile phones.

He plans to write to mobile phone giants, such as T-Mobile, and suggest a meeting with representatives to discuss whether the service can be restricted for young people. Bluetooth services enable users to send text messages from mobile phones and from personal email addresses.

It differs from classic text messaging because the sender cannot be traced, making it a popular tool for bullies. Most of the texts sent by bullies consist of name-calling or threats of physical assault. They can also include abusive pictures of the victim, taken during school time.

Mr Clarke, who admits to being a technophobe, said: "I won't pretend to understand how bullies are using Bluetooth to target victims. But I'm going to find out.

"I'm going to contact mobile phone companies and ask for their help in ending this new kind of bullying which has sprung up in Welsh schools."

He is to involve sixth-form members of an anti-bullying initiative at a Newport school in his negotiations.

The commissioner met members of Duffryn high's Peer Active Listening Scheme at the Welsh Assembly, and was told of its outstanding success.

The scheme, which has been praised by schools across Wales, encourages participants to befriend and counsel Year 7 pupils who are being bullied.

They offer confidential help and advice, but also report more serious complaints of bullying to the head.

Mr Clarke heard from 16-year-old Zara Jones, who said that Bluetooth bullying was a huge concern in her school. Three serious cases of bullying via Bluetooth have been reported to the head this year.

She said: "If pupils were better informed on how to turn off this service, or if Bluetooth was banned for use by under-18s, then it could help stop bullying."

Sue Gruffydd, Duffryn assistant head, described Bluetooth text bullying as cowardly, because senders are able to hide their identities and phone numbers.

The meeting between the commissioner and the pupils was arranged by Janet Ryder, Plaid Cymru education spokeswoman.

Ms Ryder said: "I was alarmed to hear from pupils that the latest Bluetooth mobile phones have been used by bullies to send anonymous messages direct to other children's phones.

"It makes youngsters feel there is no escape."

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