SMS bullying and how to stop it

SMS bullying and how to stop it

Jay Seaton
Jay Seaton

Jay Seaton, chief marketing officer at Airwide Solutions, on how mobile technology is fuelling bulling, and what should be done about it.

The growth of mobile technology globally has changed the lives of end users in many practical and positive ways, but it has also become a new breeding ground for a very old and unpleasant problem; bullying.

Mobile phones are a very personal device, so to receive abusive calls and SMS messages can be very distressing, especially for children as it invades their home which is often their last safe haven from bullies.

Cyber bullying is a very real and current issue, with ‘sexting’ prevention hitting headlines around the world. Consumers are concerned, particularly parents of young children with access to mobile phones. Mobile operators must address this issue immediately to provide consumer assurance and strengthen subscriber relationships.


Growing problem

Nine out of ten children in the UK own a mobile phone, according to Childalert, and it is often an area which parents find difficult to supervise. The freedom that the mobile phone allows opens the doors to undesirable communication such as cyber bullying and sexting.

Indeed, recent research from Beatbullying found that 40% of teens have been sexted, while 14% of young people have be threatened or harassed via their mobile device, according to

Obviously, the responsibility is upon parents to ensure that their children are using their mobile device safely and that they are not being targeted by bullies. However, there are steps that mobile operators can take to help put a stop to inappropriate and menacing behaviour on the mobile phone.

Many operators have already taken the first step to solve the problem of bullying via mobile by working closely with their own country’s regulators and authorities to minimise the threat. This has so far resulted in initiatives to encourage people to report inappropriate and bullying messages.

So far consumers have responded well to this approach and it has certainly begun to tackle the problem of bullying over mobile, but full prevention of the problem will not be complete without investing in and implementing technical changes in the network.


Operator solution

Operators need to deploy a solution into the network that can function at multiple levels, allowing the operator to control and monitor traffic at the network level to stop large scale spammers, but also at the subscriber level so that individuals can filter out bullies or inappropriate content.

When this form of security is in place the operator and subscribers together can effectively filter content for a more comprehensive solution. The filtering of content will enable operators to further empower subscribers who will be able to set their own definition for blocking particular content from coming through to their handsets, or their children’s handsets. This helps to prevent sexting and looking at inappropriate and upsetting images or messages.

Once these solutions are in place in the operator’s network, a user can then set specific controls to establish a blacklist of people. This is a useful tool for a child, as they can block a bully who is sending them abusive messages. Users can also set up a whitelist of friends who they are happy to receive messages from.

Alternatively, parents are given even more peace of mind as they can put controls into place on the device which put a stop to their children using it to access or send inappropriate content. Websites deemed unsuitable can be blocked from the phone.


Device security

Device-based security solutions are a further defence operators can offer for additional protection, but these solutions have limitations in that they can protect only a small number of users. Handsets are also constantly being upgraded and replaced with higher specification models, so any security software which is added is often swiftly outdated.

Mobile content is becoming more and more accessible with the proliferation of smartphones, applications and faster mobile broadband speeds and as such protecting ourselves and our children from inappropriate images and messages will become increasingly difficult. By taking action now, and installing the necessary technologies, operators will help to ensure that the issues of cyber bullying and sexting are halted before they escalate beyond control.

As a provider of next generation mobile messaging and wireless internet infrastructure, applications and solutions, Airwide Solutions has one focus: To enable your revenue to keep pace with the burgeoning consumer driven mobile messaging and wireless internet market.

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