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What can I do if I am receiving harassing text messages on my cell phone?

If you believe the threats are serious, contact the police. Most carriers explicitly prohibit harassing SMS (short message service) messages, or as they are more commonly known, text messages, in their terms of use. However, filing a police report is still an important step. Since text messages can be sent from a computer without sending a call-back number, it may be difficult to pinpoint who is sending the message. A subpoena might be necessary to locate the harasser through their computer or their restricted phone number.

In addition to filing the police report, it is important to document the harassment. If you think the messages will be deleted before the investigation is complete, you may want to photograph the text messages.

Parents should be aware of the increase in electronic bullying through text messages. One option is to contact the carrier and ask that the text message function be disabled. Disabling this feature will block all messages though (it is not usually possible to block a single phone number). As cell phones are often an integral part of a child's social life, you may not want to completely take away this option.

Experts suggest that turning off the text messaging function for a few days may be enough to discourage the harasser. Policies on blocking text messages vary by individual carrier, and your carrier may offer other options. Additionally, 14 states have laws regulating cell phones and pagers on school property. For specifics please see www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/legislation/pagersinschool.htm.

Often people use shorthand for text messages. If you are unsure of what the shorthand means, you can use the translator found at www.teenangels.org .

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