Whenever I see my niece and nephew – only 18 months old and all cute and cute babbly – they’re usually trying to grab the nearest mobile phone in reach. They know to touch the home button on an iPhone and take a photo.
When I was younger, mobile phones weren’t really a thing until I was about 12. People just didn’t have them. Then pay as you go phones started to come out and a couple of girls at school had them. We were amazed at the 9 different ring tones the massive Motorola had and would all crowd around black and green display wishing we had one, too.
I was finally allowed to buy one when I was 13. It was Christmas and I begged and begged my Mum for a phone. She didn’t get me one for Christmas, but let me buy one with my Christmas money from Sainsbury’s. You had to still play line-rental on pay as you go back then. So for £15, you would get a month of line rental and about £7 credit to call and text. Texts were about 33p a go back then!
After I got home, I texted my brothers. The usually ‘guess who’ type texts. Loving the fact they didn’t know it was me on the other side.
I used my phone for mostly showing off. Like every other 13-year old in our year. We couldn’t afford to text at 33p a message and call at 50p a minute. We would all live our ‘delivered’ messages on, which send you a message to say a message had been delivered a few minutes later, in an attempt to look more popular than we actually were.
One day I was at home doing homework and I got a text message. It said something like ‘Is this Corinne?’ (although they probably spelt my name wrong, fucking idiots). I replied ‘Yarp, who dis plz?’. They replied ‘Im gna knck u out silly slag’. Or something along those lines.
I spent the next couple of weeks going to school shitting myself. Worrying that someone was going to start a fight with me. You see, I was the opposite of hard at school. If someone would have come up to me and punched me I probably would have curled up into a ball and cried. Hell, I probably would do that now. I’ve never punched anyone, really. Apart from accidently elbowing my boyfriend in the face while trying to get comfy on the sofa. That’s about as close as I’ve come to knocking someone out.
Nothing happened. Of course. it was probably a bunch of girls who had a new phone and wanted to terrorise some weak people in their year group, like me. One of them likely had my number so though it would be ‘a rite laff’.
That was 17 years ago in 1999. Internet was only just starting to be installed in people’s homes and the best thing you could do one a mobile phone is play snake. No Facebook, no Twitter, no iPads.
You hear so many stories about school kids being bullied by their peers online. Stories on the BBC news about teenagers killing themselves as they’ve been bullied on Facebook. Had naked photos of them messaged around their year group, had the piss taken out of them in one of those ‘viral photo meme’ type posts. Stuff gets around. School people can get to you even when you’re not around. All our presence can be everywhere.
I love the Internet, I love my phone but if I had a child, I would be worried about their mental well-being. It’s all good trusting your child to use the Internet properly, to not go in chat rooms and give personal details to strangers, but nothing you can do will protect them from someone in their school sending them abuse and making them fear for their safety while walking home on an evening.
A lot of you are younger than me and have probably grown up around Facebook and mobile phones.
Have any of you ever experienced abuse from your peers?