by Dr. Dawn Koontz
Filed under: Articles
As parents, we know that there is a fine line between wanting to protect your child and wanting them to be exposed to and understand the realities of the world they live in. Because of the controversial nature of the film ‘Bully,’ some parents are choosing to see the movie twice — once as a preview for themselves and a second time with their children. If you are unsure about the appropriateness of this movie for your child, the cost of paying twice for movie tickets is a small price to pay to be an informed consumer. We will warn you that the movie shows graphic physical bullying and explicit foul language, name-calling and threats that constitute verbal bullying.
Regardless of whether you choose to preview the movie before your child sees it or not, there are some issues that need to be discussed with your child prior to the film.
1. Give your child a general overview of the movie. Then, ask if your child would like to see it. If they say “no,” you may ask “why not?,” but ultimately it is important for you to respect their decision. This movie should not be forced viewing for children.
2. For children who opt to see the movie with a parent, we highly recommend that a general discussion of bullying occur prior to the movie.
Ask your child the following questions:
- What is bullying?
- Does bullying occur at your school?
- What should you do if you see or hear bullying?
- Who should you tell?
3. Based on your child’s answers, explain the differences and give examples of physical bullying versus verbal bullying. Explain to them that they will see examples of both throughout the movie. Watching the bullying happen to kids in the movie may elicit a number of emotional responses in children, ranging from fear to sadness to anger. Explain that these are all normal responses to viewing something terrible happening to other human beings. Further explain that the reason you wanted your child to view the film was not to make him sad, but rather to make him aware and motivated to help stop bullying, too. Awareness combined with compassion can bring about the change that is needed to stop bullying altogether.
4. The most difficult issue the movie addresses is suicide. In this film, two families’ lives have been unraveled by the suicides of their sons, who were tormented by bullies prior to their untimely deaths. Again, we recommend that you have a general discussion about suicide with your child prior to viewing the film. Ask your child the following questions:
- What does suicide mean?
- What would cause someone to commit suicide?
- What are other, better ways of coping?
- Who could you talk to if you ever felt that way?
Let your child know how much they are loved and valued. Explain how sad you would be if anything were ever to happen to them. Emphasize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Then, let them know that you will always be there for them –in good times and in bad—and are always willing to listen and advocate for them when necessary.
Despite the graphic nature of this film in its portrayal of bullying, we believe that it is beneficial for most middle-school and all high-school kids to see it. Just make sure that they are prepared and then process the information with them following the movie. Although we can’t always protect our children from everything, we can prepare them to be more compassionate human beings who are willing to stand up for themselves and others when necessary.