Thousands of secondary school pupils are the victims of a new wave of bullying by camera phone, research by the children’s charity NCH revealed today.

Its poll of 11- to 19-year-olds found one in 10 have felt threatened or embarrassed by pictures taken using mobile phones .

They can be bullied even in their own homes when the perpetrators use their phones at any time of day or night to transmit the images – and threats to send them to other people.

The most extreme example of the dangers came to light in Dublin when a girl in school uniform allowed her boyfriend to take an intimate picture of her on his camera phone.

John Carr, new technology adviser to NCH, said the boy texted the image to two friends, who passed it on to others. “Within two hours police reckoned 10,000 phones received the picture. It was not intended as bullying, but the distress to the girl was immense.”

The survey, commissioned by NCH and Tesco Mobile from pollsters BMRB, asked 770 young people whether they had been bullied or threatened by anyone using emails, internet chatrooms or texts.

One in five said they had, with 14% experiencing bullying by text message, 5% in internet chatrooms and 4% via email. The figures were slightly lower than an NCH poll in 2002, which first identified the extent of bullying by text, prompting the former education secretary Estelle Morris to alert teachers to the dangers.

A new question about bullying by camera phone found the practice has grown rapidly since the technology became widely available about two years ago.

One in 10 young people reported being photographed by a mobile phone camera in a way which made them feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or threatened.

Of those, 17% said they believed the image had been sent to someone else.

This suggested that 68,000 children may already have experienced the indignity of having an embarrassing picture broadcast, with more fearing that it might be.

NCH said almost 4 million young people in the UK owned a camera-enabled handset and this number was set to double by 2007.

More here.