Submit the Documentary: The Virtual Reality of Cyberbullying

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Submit the Documentary: The Virtual Reality of Cyberbullying Movie Poster Image
Clear, effective docu offers intense stories, solutions.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 55 minutes

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

Positive Messages

The movie illuminates the consequences (sometimes tragic) of cyberbullying, "sexting," and anonymous cruelty. It also raises awareness of efforts made by parents, school officials, psychological professionals, and academics to deal with the issue, and it promotes empathy and offers positive ways to counter the cyberbullying epidemic.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Interviews reveal concerned, compassionate adults trying to understand and change the widespread negative behaviors associated with cyberbullying. The interviewees put viewers in touch with the feelings of kids who are victims of cyberbullying. Kids and adults are shown taking positive steps to make a difference.

Violence

No violent filmed action, but three teen victims of cyberbullying, whose stories are told in detail, are revealed to have committed suicide.

Sex

Teens and professionals discuss "sexting" -- sending sexual photographs and/or messages into the cyberworld. Motivation and consequences are both considered at length. No visuals.

Language

Many written messages (email, Facebook, etc.) are shown and include hateful/hurtful words and phrases including "slut," "whore," "bitch," "ass," "ur ugly," "we hate you," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Submit the Documentary: The Virtual Reality of Cyberbullying is a compelling hour-long documentary that offers straightforward, powerful information about the nature, methods, and consequences of bullying and "sexting" via the Internet and social media. Three cases of kids victimized by cyberbullies end in tragedy -- the grieving parents of all three are interviewed at length, which is very likely to upset some viewers. The movie uses film clips, conversations with individual kids and groups of kids, and testimony from professionals, parents, and educators to illustrate how widespread this type of bullying is, how devastating the consequences may be, and, on a positive note, steps that can be taken to counter it. Although it's not as intense as Bully, the material is still too strong for younger kids. But for tweens and teens, this is a valuable viewing experience, especially when shared in groups and/or with parents.

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What's the story?

SUBMIT THE DOCUMENTARY: THE VIRTUAL REALITY OF CYBERBULLYING is a compilation of personal stories told from various points of view. It includes interviews with kids, academics, psychologically trained professionals, educators, parents, and law enforcement officials. The statistical information it offers about online bullying (and, tangentially, sexting) is well integrated with the fabric of the movie's intent: to reveal the profound emotional impact of cyberbullying and to propose positive ways of countering it. Cyberbullying is epidemic, the experts testify -- and most of them are stymied by their inability to maintain damage control. Kids are afraid to fight back, afraid to get involved when others are being hurt, and they struggle to avoid intimidation themselves. But the filmmakers aren't satisfied with that bleak picture. They counter with theories that do work -- primarily teaching empathy and educating those they term "bystanders," who are deemed to be the best defense against the predators.

Is it any good?

Director Muta'ali Muhammad and his colleagues succeed in delivering a tight, informative hour-long film that addresses cyberbullying, a critical issue affecting older kids and teens.

Submit the Documentary is earnest, comprehensive, and emotionally shattering. Carefully defining cyberbullying, using personal stories to provide emotional impact, and showing the powerlessness of those who are victimized (both the kids and adults they turn to for help) ultimately leads the filmmakers to find and deliver solutions. Difficult though those solutions may be to implement, the film offers hope, as well as concrete ways for kids to help themselves -- and others.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about an individual's responsibility to stand up, not stand by, as it's discussed in Submit the Documentary: The Virtual Reality of Cyberbullying. Is that easy to do? How do you think people can really make a difference against bullies?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about teen suicide. This is an incredibly tough topic, but one that needs to be addressed. What makes some people think that it's their only option? What impact does their decision have on their friends and family? Where can kids in despair turn for assistance?

  • How is cyberbullying different from in-person/physical bullying? What gives it so much power to harm?

  • Kids have to face bullies even when they're very young. If you've been bullied, how did you handle it? Which adults would you trust for advice or help?

  • Submit the Documentary talks a lot about empathy. Think of some examples when you had empathy for someone else. Why do you think empathy is an effective way of dealing with bullying? 

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