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Phoebe suicide sparks new text bully warning

Parents need to constantly monitor new contacts on their children's mobile phones to prevent more tragic suicide victims such as schoolgirl Phoebe Prince.

Tony Cullen, CEO of Bully Stop, a new technology which can block or accept new phone numbers with the consent of the parents, says families need to be more involved in friends listed on their children's phones.

The tragic death of Phoebe, the pretty Irish student who took a suspected overdose on January 14, has now highlighted the issue of bullying worldwide.

It is believed that Phoebe (15) was tormented by a gang of girls in a US school, to which she had moved from Co Clare last summer. It is also thought that she was harassed outside school by text messages.

Extreme

"It's utterly miserable for the kids, and in extreme cases it can lead to suicide. The important thing is to get the kids and the parents talking," explained Tony.

"If parents knew what was going on and they took appropriate action, they [suicides] could have been prevented. There have been a few suicides through bullying."

Mr Cullen stressed that text bullying is one of the most invasive types of cyber bullying, since it means that a child can be taunted when they are out of school -- even on holidays.

"Kids are being bullied in the school yard, which is bad enough, but also in the bedroom behind closed doors, which is very hard.

"It's everywhere. There are pages and pages of different anti-bullying organisations in the world, and different studies have shown that anything up to 40pc in Ireland is experiencing cyber bullying."

One of the problems with cyber bullying is that children do not tell their parents that they are victims of taunts from their peers, and therefore parents are unaware.

"It's a worry with parents because their child might be on bebo but they can look over their shoulders and see what their child is doing.

"But on the mobile phone, their child could be on the bus or somewhere else, and the parents don't know what's going on," he explained.

Private

"Parents and their kids need to sit down together and find out what's going on. Bully Stop has an "okay" list and a "block" list. Parents can talk about their children's new friends."

Bully Stop is designed so that parents and children can block bullies from sending the child text messages and calls, and it is user-friendly.

"Bully Stop won't stop bullying but it will stop text messages and bring it to the attention of the parents," Mr Cullen said.

hnews@herald.ie