Teen experiences the good of social media

  • A video posted online featuring a Cambodian 14-year-old who can speak 16 languages has had an immediate and dramatic impact on the boy and his family
  • While this family may be helped out of poverty, the story also highlights the plight of so many other Cambodian children
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 10:58pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2018, 1:44pm

The negative impact of social media has been increasingly apparent in recent months, from the proliferation of fake news, to online bullying, manipulation of voters and its use as a tool to spark hatred and violence. It is easy to forget that the ability to quickly convey information to millions of people around the world can also be a force for good.

Cambodian teenager Thuch Salik has experienced the power of social media and it has transformed his life. The bright, charming 14-year-old has a talent – he can speak 16 languages and dialects. Had it not been for social media, his ability would have been apparent only to the tourists he approached at Angkor temples in an attempt to sell them souvenirs.

Salik became a celebrity overnight when a Malaysian tourist, impressed by his use of Cantonese, Mandarin, Thai, Spanish, German and English, filmed him and posted the video on the internet. The video is touching, charming and Salik’s mastery of different languages impressive. It is not surprising it went viral.

Cambodian boy who speaks 16 languages looking to make it big in China

The impact on Salik’s life and that of his family has been immediate and dramatic. Plucked from poverty, he has made his first trip to Phnom Penh to appear on a national television show. Talks are under way for him to travel to China to be interviewed live on TV. A businessman has offered to pay for Salik’s education. His family, struggling with debt, is understandably hoping that their days of selling souvenirs to tourists are over.

We wish them well and hope that this sudden change continues to have a positive impact on their lives. But the story highlights the plight of so many other children in Cambodia who work, rather than attend school, to help their family survive. Many are also exploited for their labour, working in dangerous conditions, or simply beg on the streets.

Sadly, giving money to such children only serves to perpetuate their plight. The tourist spots, such as Angkor Wat, generate a lot of money. More of it needs to be used to ensure that children in Cambodia can attend school and get the education they need to escape a life of poverty.