Meera Syal, the actress and writer, has called for action on cyber-bullying after her teenage daughter was the subject of an online hate campaign.
Chameli Bhatia, 19, was targeted on Facebook when she was accused of assaulting a felow private school pupil with a glass at a teenage party.
Ms Bhatia, a drama student, was cleared of the charge on Friday by a jury which took less than an hour to deliver its verdict.
During the court case, it emerged that the teenager had been the victim of cyber-bullying, with threats made against her by people she did not even know.
Miss Bhatia said: “A Facebook campaign was started against me and I received a lot of threats from people I didn’t even know at school. When I got back to school I was so isolated.”
Her mother Meera Syal, the star of Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, said last night that children had to be protected from the hateful and aggressive campaigns launched against them through electronic media, such as Facebook or mobile phones.
“I suspect there are very few parents in the country whose children have not been subject to cyber-bullying, whether by internet, Blackberry messenger, or text,” she said.
“While I am a passionate defender of free speech I think the time has come to examine carefully when a freely expressed opinion turns into something akin to victimisation and trial by media.”
The call for action comes after the growth of the ugly phenomenon of “trolling” in which people “post” threats and abuse on internet sites either anonymously or under a flase identity.
Teachers are particularly concerned about the way in which electronic media are being abused.
Nearly one in five UK youngsters have been the victim of cyber-bullying, with girls affected more than boys, according to research by Anglia Ruskin University.
Experts said the immediacy and anonymity of mobile phones and social networking sites, which allow mass communication, means children can not escape their tormentors, making cyber-bullying more devastating than more traditional forms.
In one recent case in Birmingham, the family of 15 year-old Thomas Mullaney claimed he was driven to suicide by bullying on the internet.
After an incident at school and an exchange of messages with another pupil, the boy was bombarded with abusive messages, with threats to assault him and come to his house.
Claude Knights, the director of children’s charity Kidscape said: “If you are bullying someone face to face, you can see the effect it is having but with the misuse of the internet, you don’t see the pain.
“That lack of inhibition makes it much nastier and much more brutal. For the victim, it can be relentless, 24/7. Children are left isolated, anxious and fearful.”
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