By KENNY CHEE
POLYTECHNIC student Alice (not her real name) got a shock in November last year, when she realised that a female classmate had taken upskirt photos of her by using a mobile phone.
The classmate then showed the photos to other students and openly taunted Alice, 19, about it. Although embarrassed, she ignored the bully.
"Sooner or later, bullies will get bored and switch targets," she said.
Sure enough, the bully stopped taunting Alice last December.
Alice's case reflects an emerging form of cyber-bullying through the use of mobile phones among youths here, social workers said.
A spokesman for the Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth said that there are now more bullying cases involving mobile phones compared to four or five years ago, although the numbers are still low.
Touch Cyber Wellness and Sports, a cyber-wellness education centre, does not have figures, but "it is not uncommon to hear of youths using mobile phones to engage in cyber-bullying", said its manager, Mr Poh Yeang Cherng.
Traditionally, cyber-bullying has usually involved the Internet, social workers said.
But mobile phones are becoming an increasingly common weapon, because more young people own them, they added.
Last year, 64 per cent of Singaporeans aged seven to 14 were mobilephone users, an increase from 48 per cent in 2007, according to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore's website.
But phone bullying can be hard to spot, said Ms Tan Bee Joo, deputy director of the Singapore Children's Society's Student Service Hub.
"Children and teens see mobile phones as status symbols and a way to connect with friends. So, they might be willing to live with phone bullying and hide it than risk losing their phones if their parents found out (about the bullying)," she said.
Parents have to be non-confrontational when addressing such issues with their children, she added.
Australian freelance writer Steve Clark, 52, wrote to my paper recently to urge schools to ban mobile phones among students, so that they would not use these devices to intimidate their schoolmates.
Asked if mobile phones should be banned in schools, an Education Ministry spokesman said: "Schools are empowered to make policies regarding disciplinary matters to best fit their school situation."
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