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What to do if you are harassed by text message

Harassment that occurs with text/SMS messaging as a medium is a type of cyberbullying- bullying through electronic devices and networks. While it is relatively uncommon in adults, teenagers frequently are involved in these offenses. The level of anonymity involved can make it difficult to confront someone effectively as you would face to face. It is important to take action but to proceed with caution in these volatile situations.

The first thing you should do if you are being harassed is evaluate the situation: Is your well-being at risk? Do you know the person sending the messages? If you feel threatened at all, it is wise to contact the police, and discus blocking the person’s phone number with your cellular service carrier. In most states there are strict laws regarding cyberbullying. If there is no state law, the case is non-threatening, and you attend a university or other type of school (high school or middle school), look into their policy. Most schools have zero-tolerance policies and will implement their own solutions on a case-by-case basis. In extreme situations, it may be best to change your phone number (this is relatively simple and generally free or at low cost). If you have contacted the police and do know who the sender is, they will advise you in whether it would be wise to pursue a no contact order. With a no contact order, the sender could be fined, jailed, or otherwise penalized for attempting to make any form of contact- virtual or otherwise. At your request, police can acquire the past six months of your text/SMS history as evidence. They will be able to help you.

If you are not at risk of physical harm it may still be best to contact law enforcement or your educational facility. Verbal abuse that threatens your emotional well-being also violates zero-tolerance policies and anti-cyberbullying laws. If this is the case, blocking the sender should be your first line of defense. If it is someone you know personally, confrontation with a councilor or officer present may be an option, but at no time should you attempt to make contact with an anonymous sender, as this could result in serious safety problems. If abuse has been persistent, you should seek some reassurance and/or help from a therapist or councilor. For emotionally distressing messages, a no contact order can also be implemented and other legal actions taken. Even if a sender is just chronically annoying, you can change your number or block theirs with no questions asked.

If you or someone you know is being harassed via SMS/text messaging, please seek help. Local police, educators, and councilors are more than happy to help you out of these situations, and you will have a variety of options and a plethora of aid. You can solve your problems without ever even seeing the offender if you prefer. This is an open, understanding, and helpful system that is absolutely on your side.

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