Mobile and phone harassment describes any type of voicemail, phone call or text/video/sxt/photo message that is unwanted and/or leaves the recipient feeling harassed, threatened, tormented, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise victimised.
Adults and young people can be harassed and bullied in the same ways and all can be left distressed at times. It is important to support anyone who is being harassed or bullied in any way.
People who use digital technologies to bully and harass can leave an electronic trail, so it may be possible to investigate if their behaviour is criminal and even to prosecute them.
How does bullying happen on a mobile?
Bullying and harassment on mobile phones can take a number of forms. It can happen through:
- mean or offensive messages – received once or repeatedly;
- being bombarded by a large volume of messages (e.g. over 25 a day);
- offensive or upsetting photo or video messages;
- threatening messages; and
- persistent unwanted messages.
What should I do if there is a threat to my safety?
Anyone threatening to physically hurt you or damage your property is breaking the law. If you feel like you are in immediate danger call 111 straight away.
Once the immediate threat has passed you need to record a copy of the threat(s) (You can find out how to gather electronic evidence here) and report what is happening to the police. You will need to go into a Police Station with your evidence to lay a formal complaint. You can also talk to your telecommunications provider about threatening messages or calls so they can help.
What can I do if my partner, ex-partner or family member is harassing me?
If this person is harassing or abusing you via electronic means, you can investigate taking out a protection order which covers all forms of communication including phone, mobile and internet. For more information contact Shine between 9am and 11pm, 7 days a week, on 0508-744-633.
If the person harassing you has never been in a domestic relationship with you, you may be able to take out a Restraining Order under the Harassment Act 1997 which covers all forms of communication including phone, mobile and internet. See Harassment Act 1997 below.
What should you do if a young person is being harassed?
The most important thing you can do is let the young person know that you are there to support them. And remain calm! Do not isolate the victim from their social networks or take away their mobile as many young people will not report an incident if they fear their access to online technology will be removed.
What can my telecommunication provider do?
There are a number of things a telco provider can do which ranges from sending a warning message to the harasser or suspending them from the network.
How to make a complaint to the telecommunication providers
New Zealand’s telecommunication companies have agreements in place to work together to help stop mobile harassment. They also assist law enforcement agencies in severe cases and can advise you on how to block numbers. To get help from your phone or mobile provider ring them using the contact details below:
Call 200 from your mobile or 0800 022 022. Visit the 2degrees website for help blocking a number from a 2degrees phone.
Call 0800 809 806 from a landline or mobile.
Blacklist is a free service for Vodafone mobile customers. Log into My Vodafone, click Vodafone Blacklist and enter the phone number you want to block. Then simply FreeTXT these commands to 713:
To add a number to Vodafone Blacklist: Vodafone Blacklist Add (mobile number)
- If you are receiving unwanted or harassing calls, once you have four examples the complaint can be escalated by calling 777 from your mobile or 0800 800 021 using a landline. Get further information about Vodafone’s services.
You can also download blocking apps on most phones that will block the caller.
What can be done to prevent bullying and harassment on phones and mobiles?
There are a few things you can to minimise the chances of harassment and bullying this includes:
- Being careful about who you give your number to and not giving someone else’s number out without asking them first;
- Not replying to texts or voice mails from people you do not know;
- Always asking before you take a photo of another person and checking it is okay to share before sending it to anyone else. Once a picture is sent it may be circulated to other people.
- Remembering that text pictures can be manipulated by others after they have been sent, posted online or distributed to an unknown audience.
- Thinking about whether something you send might make another person feel uncomfortable. Whether it is a ‘joke’ or something about another person, be aware that it might be taken the wrong way or sent on to someone else. If in doubt, don’t send it.
How to handle threats
- Don’t reply: Sometimes the sender will get bored and stop sending messages if they don’t get a reply. Another reason for not replying is that if a complaint needs to be made to the telecommunications company, replying can delay the process. Often people will reply to messages if they do not recognise the number or because the content is upsetting.
- Keep the evidence: Don’t delete harassing content as the police and telecommunication provider need this to help. Keep a log of the time, date and the phone number the messages were sent from. The date and time of the message is usually contained in a ‘time-stamp’ at the beginning or end of the text message.
- Talk to someone: Encourage young people to talk to a trusted adult (parent, teacher or counsellor) as it’s important they talk to someone so support can be provided.
- Report it: If a message threatens to harm a person or property, the message needs to be taken to the local police station. Explain what has happened and get a police complaint number. If someone is in immediate danger call 111 straight away.
More advice and information
- In July 2015 the Harmful Digital Communications Act was introduced. This Act has two purposes:
- deter, prevent, and mitigate harm caused to individuals by digital communications; and
- provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress.
- If someone is misusing a telephone they may be committing an offence under the Telecommunications Act.
- NetSafe have partnered with Vodafone and The Parenting Place to develop Digi-Parenting. This is an online hub of articles, videos and guides to help kiwi families navigate and make sense of the digital world.
- You can read more about NetSafe’s cyber bullying advice here.
- Contact NetSafe if you’d like further help on 0508 NETSAFE or firstname.lastname@example.org.