Before the internet and social media, people could avoid being bullied at home – even if they couldn’t get away from it at school. But now, you only need to turn on your phone when in bed, or go on Facebook during dinner, to see hurtful messages.
In 2015, a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that Hong Kong ranked 16th worst country for bullying out of 50. That means that a 15-year-old in 34 other countries experiences less bullying than a 15-year-old student does in Hong Kong. The same study found that Singapore has third highest rate of bullying globally.
One Hong Kong International School (HKIS) student, Cameron Su, is trying to change those statistics with his book, Memories Cached.
G.E.M., one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” most influential people, on handling 80,000 nasty comments, internet trolls and negativity
Cameron, 17, said he wanted to write about his own experiences at school, and highlight how bullying can be tremendously harmful. His novel centres on the lives of two Singaporean International School students, Dominic and Savannah.
“Their school lives [revolves around] them being excluded by others, both in person and on social media,” said Cameron.
Dominic constantly worries about how well he does at school, and Savannah is obsessed with cultivating the perfect life on her social media pages.
“I was born in Singapore,” Cameron explained, which is why he feels like he can relate to his characters. “According to the study, Singapore is the third worst country for bullying. But we shouldn’t feel good about that, just because it’s not as bad here in Hong Kong.
“This book means a lot to me. I first started writing it in 2014, and I knew I wanted it to be relatable, to reflect my own experiences – and to show others who experience bullying that they aren’t alone.”
The HKIS student is one of twenty student project winners of this year’s Kids4Kids Action for a Cause (AFAC) initiative. Kids4Kids is a charity that inspires students to develop social awareness and take action, and AFAC aims to encourage young people to take action on real life social issues. Cameron’s win means he receives funding this year for a campaign that will run from this month until June. He is planning on working with a Kids4Kids mentor to directly address bullying in Hong Kong schools, on the internet, and on social media.
A spokesperson for the Kids4Kids’ programme said the organisation loved the author’s campaign because it tackles a difficult subject with creativity.
“His use of a novel is in line with our organisation’s literacy development mission,” the spokesperson said. “We believe his passion and insights will help other students become aware of the bullying and cyberbullying that happens everyday.”
Memories Cached isn’t the only book that Cameron has written – he’s also written another book called Track Pants, Pinked and Punked. The story centres on Chester, a young student who finds himself trying to adjust to life at a new school.
“[Chester] faces different rules, sports, and friendships,” said the author. “It’s not easy for him, and his wearing the wrong trousers to school doesn’t help, because he gets made fun of.”
Cameron added that he wants people to find his work relatable and authentic, and for it to be used as a platform for opening up talk about more than just bullying.
“I want to raise money by giving a portion of the book’s sales to [Kids4Kids] to support more mental health programmes,” he said. “[I want to develop] seminars to be held in schools, and use Memories Cached as a starting point for discussion.”