What is Mobile Harassment?
Mobile Harassment, a type of cyber bullying, is sending any type of text message, sext, photo message, video message, or voicemail from a mobile phone that causes the receiver to feel harassed, threatened, tormented, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise victimized.
Approximately 14% of young people say they have been victims of mobile harassment, which can range from name calling, sending threatening text messages, or sending photos or videos that are intended to frighten or intimidate.
Another study out of Queensland, Australia suggests that number of victims could be even higher, finding that 93.7% of teenagers experienced mobile harassment of some kind. This study concluded that while boys tend to experience more mobile bullying than girls, girls are more likely to be upset about the harassment.
The results of these studies are influenced by the increase in the number teens and tweens who carry a mobile phone. A 2008 survey shows about 80% of teens today carry a mobile phone, which is up 40% from 2004. Almost half of these teens said that their mobile phones are “key” to their social lives. With mobile phones being such an integral part of teen life and the way they relate to one another it is very important parents and teachers understand the negative behaviors that can be associated with mobile misuse. Some groups go as far as to call the abuse of mobile communication, including sexting  and cyber bullying, a digital disease.
Mobile harassment can happen in a variety of ways:
- The release of texts that can be interpreted or misinterpreted to have a negative nature
- Text messages that could victimize other people or the sender
- Any private messages or pictures sent in text messages that end up on the public domain
- Also, harassment can occur when phone numbers or passwords are shared
Mobile Harassment Awareness Campaigns
In November 2009, LG Mobile Phones released an advertising campaign that used humor to encourage teens to think before they text. The ads featured James Lipton, LG released a series of videos on YouTube that urged teens, “Before you text, give it a ponder.” The viral public education campaign also includes a Facebook page, widgets where friends can “beard” their friends and in-theatre advertising.
LG also introduced LG Text Ed, a campaign for parents that explains how kids are using their phones and possibly misusing them. The program features an advisory council of experts who provide monthly articles, videos, tips and Q&As on a range of topics, from sext to phone etiquette to driving while texting.
There have also been broader cyber bullying awareness campaigns from the Ad Council, “Delete Cyber bullying” (Ad Council ’07) and “Illuminate Cyber bullying” (Ad Council ’08).
Mobile Harassment in Pop Culture
The popular show Gossip Girlcontains many episodes with storylines that revolve around gossipy, misinterpreted or questionable text messages. Also there was a film made from a book called Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression of Girls by Rachel Simmons, named Odd Girl Out, which deals with teen girls’ non-physical bullying that can be just as, if not more, harmful and destructive.
There have also been a number of books written that include mobile harassment in their storyline:
- Bullyproof your child for Life: Protect Your Child from Teasing, Taunting, and Bullying for Good.” By Dr. Joel Haber
- The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso
- The Bullying Circle by Dr. Dan Olweus
- Rosalind Wiseman- is internationally recognized as an expert on children, teens, parenting, social justice, and ethical leadership. Rosalind is the creator and author of the Owning Up Curriculum, a program designed to challenge students and educators to stand up to social cruelty degradation and violence. She is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes. She also writes a monthly column in Family Circle Magazine and will be releasing her first young adult novel, Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials, in January 2010.
- Dr. Charles Sophy - a leading psychiatrist specializing in Adult, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Family Practice, Dr. Sophy has dedicated his life to the physical and mental well-being of children and families nationwide. He currently serves as the Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the nation's largest Child Welfare System. In addition to his county position, Dr. Sophy maintains a private practice in Los Angeles and recently released his book February 3, 2010: Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication.
- Dr. Joel Haber – a clinical Psychologist and parenting expert who has dedicated more than 20 years to the prevention of abusive behaviors in children and adults. The official bullying consultant to the American Camp Association, Dr. Haber leads popular workshops and conference sessions on bullying, online bullying and violence prevention nationwide. He is also co-founder of Tool Kits for Kids, LLC helping parents and kids develop skill sets to overcome worry, build confidence and develop resilience. He is also the author of Bullyproof Your Child for Life.
- Conwell, Chris (2009). Cyber Bullying. UK.
- New findings on mobile phone bullying.(BULLYING & VIOLENCE) Youth Studies Australia, Kate Gross, March 1, 2008
- Survey: Teens' Cell Phones Indispensible CNET News, Sept 15, 2008
- "Sexting" Shockingly Common Among Teens CNET News, Jan 15, 2009
- Digital Disease Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication, Richard Guerry, 2009