Growing Up Online

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Growing Up Online Movie Poster Image
Engrossing documentary looks at teens' online behavior.
  • NR
  • 2008
  • 60 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Overall, the documentary offers a positive takeaway: Though the Web offers plenty of possibilities both good and bad, parents can work with their teens to define appropriate boundaries for being online.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The documentary highlights an even mix of parents and children, some of whom are on the extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to online behavior and worries.


YouTube videos of teens fighting each other are shown. Some scenes depict high schoolers playing violent video games. A teen commits suicide, and the circumstances surrounding it are discussed openly.


No sexual acts are depicted, but plenty of suggestive photos posted by teens are displayed. Some show them in various states of undress and/or in bondage gear. Teens discuss taking suggestive photos of themselves and emailing them to others.


Swear words are seen onscreen as teens type entries on various social networking sites.


Logos for various social networking sites are clearly visible, including Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube -- but it's all presented within the direct context of the documentary's subject.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kids and parents discuss teens being inebriated at a concert. Some discussion about underage drinking in general.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary (which originally aired on PBS as part of the Frontline series) will be informative for both them and their children, especially teens. By examining how teenagers are living out parts of their lives online and the challenges they face in doing so, filmmakers Rachel Dretzin and John Maggio offer a frank portrait of digital activity that includes suggestive images that teens have posted online and videos of violent brawls that have broken out among high-schoolers. Expect difficult subjects like online stalking, anorexia, and suicide to come up in discussion.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byPBSFanFromChile February 3, 2017

The very best of #FrontlinePBS, a production of 'GBH in Boston.

Great programme made in Boston for PBS. Will Lyman is the eternal voice of FRONTLINE. Great episode. Available on Your purchase support y... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Facebook, MySpace, YouTube: The world has clearly changed for teenagers. Technology rules, and childhood -- or so the insightful documentary GROWING UP ONLINE posits -- will never be the same again. Over the course of Rachel Dretzin's film (which originally aired on PBS as an episode of Frontline), parents, tweens, teens, scholars, teachers, and security experts make sense of the Internet’s impact on growing up. Is it really rife with bogeymen waiting to pounce and pitfalls that could determine -- no, ruin -- kids' future? Or is online life more about what you make of it?

Is it any good?

This informative documentary, a must-see for both parents and kids, gets input from all of the issue's relevant players, adding experts into the mix to provide context. It addresses the greatest hits of Internet worries -- oversharing on social networking sites, Web sites that provide destructive information that troubled kids seek, predators -- and offers a helpful overview of what parents and kids both need to be aware of when going online.

While the material here is must-see for parents, the filmmakers take a fairly broad approach to their topic, highlighting many worst-case scenarios that may be disheartening. The experts make a point of saying as much, but their voices are secondary to parental worries. Not that there’s nothing to fret over: Make no mistake, the Internet can be a minefield, especially when teens aren’t given clear guidelines and straightforward information. But sometimes, there’s less to fear than you might think. (For more on this important topic, be sure to check out Dretzin's follow-up film, Digital Nation.)

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their online habits. Is there a difference between how adults and teens approach the Web? How does the film approach subjects like sexting?

  • What do teens think about being connected 24/7? Do they know how to protect their privacy?

  • Is this depiction of the challenges that lurk on the Web accurate or sensational (or something in between)? How does it make you look at the Web?

  • Do you think childhood has changed because of the Web?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love the digital world

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