THE DARK SIDE OF SMS
Short Message Service (SMS) or text messaging, or texting, is a form of communication that allows users to send and receive text messages via mobile phones. Users now also include websites that send text messages to mobile phones to advertise their products.

Text messaging is usually short and often replaces a phone conversation with someone, particularly if the other person is not available to take a phone call.

Whilst SMS has benefits such as being cheap, quick and easy way to communicate with people, and more convenient to communicate with groups of people than email, it has certain risks. Young people aged 14 to 16 are the biggest users of mobile phones and are therefore more susceptible to the risks.
 
  1. Your child can be messaged by a complete stranger who could pretend to be someone they aren't. Would you allow a forty-three year old man, you did not know, communicate with your 13 year-old child in the real world? Clearly not, yet this danger is highly prevalent with SMS. Your child should never communicate with anyone they do not know.

  2. When your child communicates with others, they could unwittingly give out too much information. It is best for them not to give out information that could make them identifiable such as their name, email address, or location. Also children should not give out their mobile phone numbers to on-line registration forms or to unknown sources. Children should also take care when entering phone numbers of their text message recipients to stop their text messages going astray.

  3. Your child can be targeted with spam and adverts from inappropriate adult rated sites trying to sell them products. Websites can now text message anonymously. Your child should not respond, as this will let the sender know that their mobile phone number is active. Children should also beware of text messages of free offers or competition wins that are too good to be true. If children receive messages that upset them or make them feel uncomfortable in any way, they should also tell an adult.

  4. Your child could be the target of flaming (abusive or insulting text messages from others). If the sender’s number is not listed in your child’s phone book, then it is hard to know who sent it. Let your mobile phone service provider know and they will help trace where the message came from and block any further messages from that number. If required, mobile phone service providers can also change your mobile number. Again, if your children receive messages that upset them or make them feel uncomfortable in any way, they should tell an adult.

  5. Your child can be harassed or bullied, or stalked through SMS, so make sure they know that if this happens, they can report the event to their phone service provider. Your child should not respond to the message but save it in their phone book. If your child is made to feel uncomfortable by a text message, they should seek advice from an adult. Sites such as Be Safe Online and Bullying Online provide useful resources to tackle the issue

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