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What 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.
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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?
As a parent, it's impossible to hear these tweens' stories and not imagine your own kids in a similarly heartbreaking situation. 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. 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.
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
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