Have you heard about the cyberbullying documentary, Submit the Documentary? Unlike other bullying-focused documentaries that have come out recently, Submit the Documentary focuses on cyberbullying and real problems affiliated with cyberbullying. When the opportunity arose, I was incredibly excited to review the film on MyKindnessCounts.com.
For many years, the topic of cyberbullying in its entirety is one that I have found incredibly difficult to understand and at times, frustrating. The Internet often seems like an entirely different world from the one we live in. It is somewhat unpatrolled and where anonymity can be extremely prevalent. As Mary Kay Hoal, founder of Yoursphere.com, says in Submit, “If what was happening online was happening in the real world, people would be marching. There would be social change.”
With 52% of our American youth reporting being cyberbullied from 2011-2012 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Health and Human Services, Cyberbullying Research Center), cyberbullying is not an issue that we can afford to dismiss. From watching the film, I feel more at ease knowing that the creators of Submit are intently aware of this and have spent the past few years talking to experts in the field, as well as families and children, gathering data, and constructing an incredibly well made and informative documentary. Submit the Documentary is a film specifically designed to inform the country of how detrimental the effects of cyberbullying can be on children and families.
As Submit points out, cyberbullying elicits behaviors meant to humiliate, torment, and socially exclude from behind some sort of electronic communication technology (Mishna, Saini, & Solomon, 2009). The documentary does an excellent job of highlighting why this is a problem and also how detrimental such behaviors can be for youth – the very people who use technology the most. As we learn from Dr. Robin Kowalski, Professor of Psychology at Clemson University, emotional bullying can create emotional baggage that kids take with them over time. This emotional baggage can manifest itself into depression, anxiety, school absences, physical sympotomology, and heightened self-esteem issues.
Cyberbullying is complicated and this theme is prevalent throughout Submit. Quite simply, cyberbullying is an emotionally charged topic for parents as much as it is for kids. Teens are often hesitant to report cyberbullying to their parents in fear that parents will overreact, or take their cell phones and computers away. Teenagers would rather endure the harassment than be on the outs of their social networking world. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, Associate Professor of Florida Atlantic University and the Co-Director of The Cyberbullying Research Center, explains that in his research he has found that many teens being cyberbullied feel alone and lonely, and are consequently desperate for attention, affection, affirmation, and validation. In order to obtain these things, teens are online and text messaging all hours of the day because being online provides them with this instant gratification. Conversely, if a child does tell their parents they are being bullied, parents are often unsure of where to turn to. Schools often feel they do not have adequate resources to help a problem that begins outside of school. Law enforcement agents feel overwhelmed by “bigger societal problems”, and as pointed out in the film, lawyers are hesitant to take cases where one child is against another, except in situations where violence has occurred, or the media has gotten involved.
As a viewer, the burning question I had while watching the film was, “Well, what can we do?” The makers of Submit provide both suggestions and the opinions of numerous experts in the field. I highly encourage everyone to see Submit the Documentary. Not only is the content important, but the film does an outstanding job of breaking down why cyberbullying is complicated, what the experts know, and how we can better handle how cyberbullying is affecting youth. In order to support Submit and cyberbullying awareness, please go to their website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.