ABC Family Original Movie, Cyberbully

The ABC Family Original Movie, Cyberbulling, is an interesting film that stands at a crossroads between being a gritty exploration of seemingly nonsensical teenage harassment and a cautionary tale of what you should and shouldn’t do on the Internet as orated by adults frustrated by the new medium.

The film tells the tale of young Taylor Hillridge, who opens up a profile on a risque spin-off of Facebook, called “Clicksters”. Everything is fun and games until Taylor’s best friend opens up a fake profile – unbeknownst to Taylor – sporting the picture of an attractive male teenager that starts flirting with her online, sometimes defending online attacks that Taylor’s acquaintances at school launch upon her and sometimes adding to the fire.

Hillridge’s life enters a downward spiral, leading to near suicide. Luckily, the film ends on a positive note. 
The issue with Cyberbully, as a film, is its intended audiences – families who may have children Taylor’s age and whose children may in fact be in the same situation. Therefore, there’s lots of scenes of adults speaking in politically correct terms regarding legislation against cyberbullying, adults admonishing children on their rude acts over the Internet, and lots of scenes of conveniently naive teenagers that are incapable of simply unplugging themselves from this Internet torture. 
But the fact that the film feels as innocent and convenient as it does plays on how those same traits are characteristic of teenagers that may be experiencing cyberbullying.

While cyberbullying is a difficult problem without an easy fix, one of the more effective methods is also the most ignored: unplugging yourself. If a message thread on Facebook or Cyberbully’s “Clicksters” proves too nasty to read, just don’t and ignore the whole thing. The fact that Taylor constantly returns to the network to check up on her latest messages – which are never nice ones – is tantamount to Taylor physically beating herself up and is reflective of teenage stubbornness and its exacerbating effect on cyberbullying.

It’s an interesting movie – with flaws – but above all, it communicates a clear message about teenagers that beat themselves over the head, unnecessarily, with cyberbullying. Like putting salt on an open wound.

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