Norway’s biggest campaign against digital bullying launched

“It is very satisfying to see how many good forces we have assembled in the fight against digital bullying. Working with the various professional bodies, we have developed a campaign that will help to establish healthy attitudes to the use of digital media among both children and their parents,” says Ragnar Kårhus, head of Telenor in Norway, whose initiative the “Use your Head” tour was.

Half have bullied digitally – or know someone who does it

A survey carried out by Opinion on behalf of Telenor shows that the need for information about digital bullying is great. As many as 85 per cent of Norwegian parents believe that new forms of communication via the internet and mobile phone are helping to make bullying among children and young people more common. At the same time, one parent in four thinks that digital bullying is more serious than normal bullying. Among children aged 10 to 15, almost 50 per cent says they have carried out mobile or internet bullying themselves or know someone who has done it.

“The survey shows that digital bullying is a big problem for many children and young people. As a provider of mobile phone and Internet services, Telenor takes this problem very seriously. We want to be the best at security and safety. We have therefore developed specific tools against digital bullying and we are now continuing the fight through Norway’s biggest ever awareness campaign against digital bullying,” says Kårhus. He is supported by Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister of Children and Equality, who was present at her own former school when the “”Use your Head” tour made its first appearance at Nordby lower secondary school in Jessheim outside Oslo.

“Children and young people have the right to feel safe. Children and young people today spend a lot of time growing up in the digital arena and to many of them experience bullying on the internet and mobile phone. We want children and young people to be determined, to feel good about themselves and to consider other people. We have therefore strengthened our campaign against digital bullying on several fronts, including by supporting the “”Use your Head” tour,” says Huitfeld.

One in three parents doesn’t speak with their children

The survey shows that more then one in three parents don’t speak with their children about mobile or internet bullying. The children answer approximately the same.

“Children don’t always want to speak with their parents about issues such as digital bullying. That’s why it’s important for children to have a place to go to. Red Cross are there for the children through “Kors på halsen”, where they can talk to responsible adults about their worries and questions”, says Sven Mollekleiv, President in Red Cross.

“As a parent, it’s not easy to keep up with of our children in everything they do on the Internet. They use online communities in the same way as we used the coffee shop on the corner in the old days. It’s important to get out information about the fact that digital bullying is just as serious as bullying in the school yard”, Mollekleiv says.

Prevention to stop the first bullying message

Several of the organisations behind the “Use your Head” tour point out the particular importance of preventive work to fight digital bullying.

“We are particularly concerned to put the focus on good communication between parents and their children. For this reason, the “Use your Head” tour encourages a dialogue with both parents and pupils at every school. This will make it easier for parents to talk to their children about relevant problems later, which is something very valuable,” says consultant Kjellaug T. Tønnesen of ChildMinder.

The authorities are also backing the “Use your Head” tour and the Norwegian Media Authority’s “Trygg Bruk” (Safe Use) project has, together with Telenor, helped to realise the project through financial support.

“The “Use your Head” tour helps to create an increased understanding of how important it is to use normal good manners when using digital media. This is a very important job and we want to support it,” says Thomas Hepsø, project manager of the Trygg Bruk project.

Thousands are using the bully filter on their mobile phones

Last winter Telenor launched a dedicated bully filter to shut the bullies out of mobile phones. Telenor has since had ample proof of the need for this service. To date, over 1,300 mobile phone subscribers have installed the bully filter on their phones.

“The aim is to help establish a healthy set of values and standards among users of digital services. In the long term, we hope therefore that the need for bully filters and similar services will disappear. In the meantime, however, there is no doubt that such a need exists and that many need extra protection. The bully filter is a good and important contribution to this,” says Kårhus.

The bully filter from Telenor gives users the opportunity to blacklist mobile phone numbers they don’t want to receive text or images from. The bully filter may easily be activated by calling Telenor’s customer service on 09000. Then it is up to the user to enter numbers on www.telenor.no. Once the bully filter has been installed, blacklisted messages will be sent to a dedicated e-mail account at www.telenor.no , so that the user can access them if so desired. The sender of any blacklisted message that has been blocked will receive the following message: “Warning. You have been blocked from sending messages to this number.” The bully filter is completely free of charge.

About “Use your Head” – a tour of schools about digital bullying

The work of developing the “Use your Head” tour has been going on for almost a year. Telenor, the Red Cross, ChildMinder and the Norwegian Media Authority have been jointly developing a dialogue based school tour that emphasises participation by both parents and the children themselves. The tour gives specific advice about how both children and parents can fight digital bullying. The aim is to make young people, parents and teachers more aware of what digital bullying is, what can create bullying situations, what one should avoid doing and what mental and legal consequences digital bullying can lead to.

During the course of autumn 2009, the tour will visit 50 schools, 7,500 pupils and 3,500 parents. Each visit will include a daytime meeting for lower secondary school pupils and a meeting for parents in the afternoon and evening. The tour begins in Oslo, Østfold and Akershus, where it will be visiting lower secondary schools over the next three months.

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