Psychiatrist Adrian Wang, who has worked with victims, says that it is because young people are very integrated into their online communities and they always have their phones and electronic devices with them.
So even in the sanctuary of the home, bullying can continue and through different social networks.
“These trolls taunt them on Facebook, gang up on them on WhatsApp and message them directly any time, anywhere,” says Dr Wang. And now, there are anonymous chat apps such as Ask, Secret and Whisper.
Trolls or bullies want to create feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in their victims, Dr Wang says.
“And these can lead to depression and sadly, even thoughts of suicide.”
The number of young suicide cases has been creeping up.
The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) found that about 24 per cent of those who committed suicide last year were below 30 years old. In 2012, this group made up 22 per cent and 16 per cent the year before that.
A survey by Touch Cyber Wellness found that one in four secondary school students has bullied his peers online within the past year, while one in three has been a victim. One in five primary school pupils reported being cyberbullied.
A total of 3,000 secondary school students and 1,900 primary pupils were polled.
According to a 2013 Microsoft survey, Singapore is ranked second highest globally for cyberbullying.
For one 13-year-old, the cyberbullying got so bad that she started mutilating herself and harboured thoughts of suicide.
Winnie’s primary school friends began turning on her when she started secondary school and made strides to becoming a netball star. They started making snide remarks whenever she updated her Facebook page or posted photographs.
“They started making disparaging remarks on her Facebook page, commenting on her Twitter and even resorted to harassing her through the WhatsApp group they shared,” her mother, Madam Lim, tells The New Paper on Sunday.
Both Winnie and her mother’s names are changed to protect the teenager. She allowed her mother to tell the story, even if she refused to talk about her experiences.
Winnie still does not know what she did wrong and was almost driven to desperation to find out.
“When she first tried to ask them through Facebook, they called her stupid and retarded,” Madam Lim, 42, says.
Badly affected by the name-calling, Winnie began missing meals, spending her time in front of the computer and was constantly glued to her smartphone. After the first term, her schoolwork suffered, as did her confidence.
“She is usually chatty and will tell her father and me about her day. But she started withdrawing into herself and often locked herself inside her bedroom and sobbed,” Madam Lim says.
It was during the June school holidays when Madam Lim received a call from Winnie’s tutor.