What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this made-for-TV movie has tweens using the Web to air their grievances with a bully who plays mean-spirited pranks. On the flip side, the movie features strong adult role models and positive messages about friendship, character, and listening to your conscience when making difficult decisions.
What's the story?
For Nolan Byrd (Devon Werkheiser), daily life at Cedar Valley Junior High is an obstacle course unlike any other. When he's not making awkward conversation with his long-time crush, Isabel (Francia Almendarez), or avoiding uncomfortable confrontations with former best friend Max (Kendre Berry), Nolan can usually be found dodging torment from his nemesis -- notorious bully Bubba Bixby (Andrew Caldwell). When a social studies assignment about injustice starts Nolan's wheels turning, he devises a plan for retaliation against Bubba. Under the pseudonym "Shredderman," Nolan gathers video clips of the bully's misdeeds and posts them on his shredderman.com Web site for the world to see. Delighted to see Bubba in the hot seat for once, his peers hail the mysterious cyber personality as a victim's hero. Nolan then sets his sights on Bubba's dad (Daniel Roebuck), a local businessman who's covertly plotting to turn the town's scenic pond into a sewage plant. But when his fan base starts to turn against him and romance heats up between Mr. Bixby and the school's principal (Mindy Sterling), Nolan must triumph over all kinds of adversity to save his reputation -- and the town's beautiful focal point.
Is it any good?
This is a lively story with a strong cast that brings the woes of junior high life home for young viewers, who will probably really enjoy the relatable characters and storyline. But the cyberbullying plot might hit a little too close to home for parents concerned about their tweens' Web use. If your kids watch, be sure to caution them against using the Internet to ostracize or retaliate against their own peers. (For our complete guide to keeping kids safe and smart online, click here.)
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about safe, smart ways to communicate online. Remind your kids that they should never say anything online that they wouldn't say to someone's face. Ask your kids if they or their friends have ever been cyberbullied. Were there ever any consequences? Do they know what to do if they're the object of a cyberbullying? Tell them to be sure to let you know asap -- and that no matter where they've been online, you're more concerned about their safety than anything else. (And if your kids are being bullied, you must keep the emails and let your Internet Service Provider know immediately. For more tips, see the Common Sense Internet Safety guide).