What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this emotionally charged MTV movie takes a critical look at how the Internet affects our lives, our relationships, and our emotional health. There are instances of sexting, cyberbullying, and peer pressure, all facilitated by the Internet and all causing their victims emotional trauma. Eating disorders, obsessive relationships, and Internet predators are a few of the intense topics explored over the course of the story. Granted, it purposely highlights the worst of the worst when it comes to online social networking in order to cause viewers to ponder the "what ifs," but it's hard to argue with the points the movie makes, even if they're one-sided. Expect some partial nudity (girls' butts in skimpy panties and a bare back), implied sex, and heavy language ("s--t," "ass," "bitch," and the like, with "f--k" bleeped), as well as a dramatic scene showing a character's intentional suicide via overdose. Needless to say, you should gauge your teen's readiness for the weighty content, but if you tune in together, it's a great starting point for discussing very relevant issues.
What's the story?
DISCONNECTED explores the emotional risks of social networking as seen through the eyes of four characters who meet and keep in touch through live streaming videos. There's Maria (Lindsey Morgan), whose affection for her boyfriend, John (Jason Parsons), becomes an obsession when he's unreceptive to her barrage of texts. Sixteen-year-old Lisa (Ana Coto) is convinced that she's found true love in a mystery man named Jack, whom she trusts implicitly despite his unwillingness to video chat with her, thus revealing his identity. Tom (Justin Preston) safeguards his identity online so he can woo a classmate who's out of his social league at school, but that doesn't stop him from weighing in on the problems of his fellow chatters. And then there's Isaiah (Jordan Calloway), who subjects his emotional instability to the opinions of the Internet masses and pays the ultimate price when their uncensored comments send him over the edge.
Is it any good?
Intensely provocative and unsparingly honest, DISconnected encourages viewers to think long and hard about the downside of mixing technological dependence with interpersonal relationships by presenting scenarios that aren't much of a stretch to envision in the real world. Cyberbullying, sexting, and Internet predators are familiar terms in this day and age, and this movie illustrates plausible situations in which these dangers might arise. It's a bold attempt to remind teens that what they think is safe behavior online just might land them in a similar predicament. Intense though it is, this story probably isn't enough to scare your teens off social networking entirely, since it's so ingrained in their life, but its messages might just stick with them and influence the decisions they make regarding their online activities. Although the movie centers on a fictitious website, it's reminiscent of plenty of real ones your teens probably know about, like Facebook and Twitter.
Even if your teens or tweens aren't quite ready for the movie's edgy content -- which includes a suicide that's fueled by uncensored responses to a video post -- it's well worth your time to watch DISconnected yourself, especially if you're less tech-savvy than your kids. True, it's guilty of being a little one-sided, but it's an eye-opening glimpse at the dark side of one of our kids' "super-peers," and it will give you a good idea of the kinds of issues you should discuss with teens about their own online habits and relationships.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about social networking. How do sites like Facebook and Twitter enable communication? What parts of them are positive and can enhance relationships? How does technology like this give you the opportunity to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family?
Teens: Did any of the scenes here surprise you? Have you ever witnessed cyberbullying? Has your privacy ever been invaded online? What are the dangers involved in dealing with people solely online? What are your family's rules about the Internet and texting? How can you ensure your safety?
How do issues like body image and peer pressure influence teens' actions? Have you ever felt like a social outsider? What is a person's natural reaction to this segregation? How does the anonymity of the Internet enable emotional manipulation?