Speak Up



Personal stories remind kids to stand up to bullying.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Speak Up's empowering message reminds kids that it's impossible to fight bullying with silence; the only way to combat it is by telling someone that it's going on, whether you're the victim or an observer. The tween and teen subjects' personal accounts are touching and at times upsetting, but many take a hopeful stance on the subject by discussing how their own coping tactics have helped them overcome difficult relationships and build friendships in their place.

Positive role models

In addition to the kids' inspiring accounts, a handful of big-name celebs weigh in on the issue of bullying and talk about how they were affected by it during their childhood. NBA star Chris Webber, BMX pro Matt Wilhelm, actor Jackson Rogow, and NASCAR legend Jeff Burton share memories about being bullied or, in a couple of cases, bullying others to try to be "cool." But their messages are in line with Speak Up's commitment to encouraging communication about the issue. On the downside, some kids say that parents, teachers, and other adults tend to trivialize the issue of bullying.


No violence is shown, but the subjects talk about being bullied physically.

Not applicable

In one segment, a subject holds a sign with some of the names she's been called, like "bitch," "whore," "lesbo," "slut," and "fag." Other personal attacks include "ugly," "fat," and "stupid."


In one tween's story, she shows a video clip she made and posted on YouTube, and the website's logo is visible.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Speak Up is a short but powerful documentary that deals frankly with the issue of bullying among kids and tweens, as discussed by a panel of subjects who've experienced (or are experiencing) the damaging effects of being victimized. The kids' firsthand accounts are emotional, as they discuss how the torment affects their self-esteem, enjoyment of school, and even eating habits (as a result of being called "fat"). From a parent's standpoint, it's tough to listen to the kids' heartbreaking stories, but it's an eye-opening experience that will change how you interpret the potential signs of bullying in your own kids and their friends -- which makes Speak Up a great documentary to watch with your kids and discuss after. The show's theme reminds kids to speak up if they see bullying going on, and this is reiterated by the tweens as well as celebrities like Hope Solo, Lisa Leslie, and even President Obama. As for content, expect to hear a laundry list of names that kids call each other ("ugly," "stupid," "fish lips") and read some stronger ones ("bitch," "whore," "slut," "fag," "lesbo") on a sign held by a tween who's been victimized by them.

Parents say

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What's the story?

SPEAK UP is a documentary-style compilation of interviews with kids and tweens whose lives have been affected by their experiences with bullies. Name-calling, physical intimidation, social alienation -- these kids have seen it all, and, in many cases, they've been subjected to it by their peers. They share their personal stories in detail, touching on the emotional impact that bullying has had on their self-image, their academic performance, and their relationships with friends. Interspersed between the stories are interviews with celebrities like pro athletes, actors, and even President Obama, who talk about their own experiences with bullies and reiterate Speak Up's message about speaking up to stop the epidemic.

Is it any good?


We've all heard the saying about sticks and stones -- and chances are, that was our own first line of defense when the slurs were slung our way on the playground. But as the tweens in Speak Up will tell you, it's a different world now, and today's bullies have a much bigger arsenal of threats to unleash on their victims. As a result, it takes a proactive defense to hold your own, which is why Speak Up's message is so important for both kids and parents to hear. As a parent, it's impossible to hear these tweens' stories and not imagine your own kids in a similarly heartbreaking situation, so watching with as a family is a great way to jump-start a discussion with your kids about their own feelings and experiences with bullying.

Speak Up is less gritty than the more well-known documentary on the same subject, Bully, and its messages of empowerment and standing up for what's right are targeted toward grade-schoolers and tweens more than the teen set. The content targets the concerns that are on kids' minds: "If I tell someone, they'll think I'm a snitch," "Maybe if I ignore it, it will stop," and "What did I do wrong?" Guest celebrities, kids, and experts offer real-world advice on coping with bullies, reflecting Speak Up's overriding theme of speaking up to fight back and reminding kids that asking for help in a tough situation is a sign of strength rather than weakness. What's more, parents who haven't had to cope with this issue firsthand will gain a better understanding of its far-reaching effects from these kids' poignant accounts and should be more aware of the warning signs as a result.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Speak Up's message about speaking up to fight bullying. Is that an easy thing to do? What do you think discourages kids from doing so? Have you ever been in a situation in which telling someone about it made it better?

  • Tweens: Did the kids' stories ring true with you? Have you ever seen this kind of behavior going on among your peers? What did you do about it? What different forms (physical, emotional, cyber) does bullying take? Is any one type more or less hurtful than another?

  • Some of the tweens in this show mention that adults don't seem receptive to kids' concerns about this issue. Have you found that to be the case? How can adults be more approachable about instances of bullying? Kids: Who do you trust to go to if a situation like this arises?

TV details

Cast:Barack Obama
Network:Cartoon Network
Topics:Great boy role models, Great girl role models, High school
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:Streaming

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bymrbookworm01 March 18, 2012

Good for kids being bullied

I just saw this special and it's pretty good. Having been a victim of bullying myself, I can relate to how they feel about being picked on a lot. While some of the celebrities in the special mention having bullied other kids because they think it's "cool", they realized that it wasn't. OK for kids 11+. Violence: No physical violence, but plenty of bullying is mentioned, both physical and verbal. Language: A YouTube video in the special shows a bullied girl holding up a card of names she was called by bullies, including words like "b***h", "w***e", "sl*t, and "le**o" Consumerism: Show many celebrities talking about their bullying experiences, and the logo for YouTube is mentioned int the "Language" section shown above.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Kid, 9 years old April 1, 2012

Some Swearing

Some swearing, But what do you expect in a Bullying Show?
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byHeretohelp26 November 7, 2012

Pretty fine

Once a girl held up a poster that said the names that she was called and it had some intense words


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