Cyberbullying refers to bullying that uses technology such as mobile phones, email, internet forums, chatrooms and social networking sites. Research by the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College Dublin revealed that in Ireland, one in seven secondary school students have been targeted by bullies via the internet or their mobile phone.
Research has shown that bullying on mobile phones occurs primarily through the sending of text messages. Mobile phones are personal and private; as a result, this form of bullying is often hidden from adults. Bullying by mobile phone is a particularly insidious behaviour - victims are always reachable no matter where they are or what time of day or night it is.
Block It is designed to combat bullying on mobile phones. It works by blocking unwanted text, picture and video messages from other mobile phone numbers. The service is free of charge to O2 customers. It can block messages sent from any Irish mobile phone operator and will work on any mobile handset. Block It is extremely easy to use. To set up the service, a customer can simply text BLOCK IT START to 50216. Once registered, to block a number the customer texts the word BLOCK and the mobile phone number to 50216. This will stop all text, picture and video messages coming from this number. It is just as simple for customers to unblock numbers if they want to do so.
O2 worked with Irish messaging services company Anam Mobile to develop this service, which is unique in Ireland. Block It has been designed to empower O2's younger customers, allowing them to get on with their lives without the fear of receiving unwanted, hurtful, or mean text, video or picture messages.
O2 is working with the Government National Centre for Technology in Education to get the ‘Block It' message out to schools.
We may expand the scope of the Block It solution to allow for blocking voice calls. At present ‘Block It' blocks texts because research has shown that this is the main way that bullying is conducted via mobile phones.
We will continue to support the service launch through marketing and public awareness activities through our retail outlets. We have also engaged with the Buzzworks Theatre Company to bring our Block It message to schools through their play on cyberbullying called "Tech/No/Bullies".
Research among Block It customers has shown that there is "very high endorsement" of Block It and O2 for providing the Block IT service.
The Director of the Government Department of Education National Centre for Technology in Education has personally endorsed the service in a letter to Irish Secondary Schools.
O2 has been able to provide our customers with a real solution to bullying on mobile phones.
We have received positive feedback from Child Protection stakeholders on the service.