Seeing the movie, Bully, was jarring to my senses. It was a real-life account of how several kids (various ages) were bullied over the course of a year, and how many of the school systems ignored the problem. I was not surprised by the approach these filmmakers took to "wake up" parents, teachers and some older kids to this issue but it is not something I'll recommend young kids to see due to the language, and content. But let's consider it just a little more.
Bully, the movie, is an important documentary that is bringing the discussion of bullying to a larger audience. Kudos to them! I know that bullying is endemic in certain schools, and by fostering a grassroots approach (asking kids to speak up, and stand up) things can certainly change for the better. I also applaud the dedication it took to follow five students around for one year and capture the actual experience of bullying; this takes guts, perseverance and focus to really want to bring this issue to light.
Since I have worked closely with many kids on bullying issues, I also have a very critical eye on this movie. I felt it "fell short" on focusing on solutions. The idea that it takes one person to make a change is true, however sometimes speaking up is so difficult. By difficult I mean that sometimes kids will even be bullied more for telling because their bullies find out, and hit back even harder. (Obviously, this is a big problem).
But nonetheless it is critical point that kids speak up. Parents, teachers and other adults cannot keep them safe if they don't say anything. Speaking up though is a reactive approach to stopping the bullying epidemic in the United States. Solving this problem will take us (educators, parents, change-makers) to create proactive approaches too. One example would be to add classes into elementary school curriculums that teach emotional and social skills (anti-bullying behavior) and reinforce non-violent interactions.
My biggest challenge with the movie though, is that I cannot recommend it to young kids, their families and schools where bullying starts to blossom. I believe the language isn't appropriate for K-8 and that's where bullying begins. But on the bright side, perhaps this documentary will "open the door" for others like it to be made and geared toward younger audiences.
Bringing your kids
Ultimately, it's your decision on whether you bring your kids to see the movie Bully. Please know there are F-Bombs, and P-Words (slang not anatomically correct words) in the movie and some violent bullying behaviors between kids (punching, pushing, name calling). I would say it is appropriate for high school students and possibly some middle school students especially if there is a bullying problem at their school or they have bullying tendencies so they can see with their own eyes the impact. Perhaps, it will even bring them to tears like it did me; we'll see.
By Maureen Healy
Maureen Healy is a practicing children's emotional health expert with more than 20 years of global experience. Her new book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness (HCI Books) is available wherever books are sold. More info: www.growinghappykids.com or @mdhealy