One 'Bully' in theaters, but bigger bullies on Web

Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:48pm EDT
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - New film documentary "Bully" has made big headlines in recent weeks over its U.S. film rating, but larger than the topic of who can see the movie is bullying itself and its spread due in part to social networking and technology.

Bullying has existed for centuries and likely dates back to the dawn of mankind. But in recent years, speaking out against it has become a rallying cry for parents, educators and celebrities from Ellen DeGeneres to Lady Gaga. The 2010 suicide of gay college student Tyler Clementi was just one high-profile case that struck a chord with many people.

"Bully," which opens on Friday and was directed by Lee Hirsch, follows five kids and families over one school year, looking at the issue and how it has impacted their lives. Stories include two families in which kids have committed suicide and one mother awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter who was jailed for bringing a gun on a school bus.

While the extreme outcome of bullying is suicide, as in the case of Clementi, other effects include the loss of self-esteem, troubled relationships, depression and self mutilation.

The movie reaches theaters after stirring a controversy over its initial rating that restricted people under 17-years-old from seeing it without a parent. It is now being released unrated. But beyond the rating, bullying is a growing problem in part because technology has given today's youth more ways than ever to torment others, experts said.

Using cell phones and computers, kids send immediate, nasty messages via texts or posts on social media websites. And many experts see the Internet as a new school playground where kids gather to share information, post pictures and trade gossip.

"Today, bullying is 24/7," Ross Ellis, founder and chief executive officer of STOMP Out Bullying told Reuters. "It's at school, you go home and it's on the Internet. It's there all the time."

Julie Hertzog, director of parental training group Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center noted a direct correlation between what's happening at school and online.   Continued...

Movie posters are seen for the documentary film "Bully" during its Los Angeles premiere in Hollywood March 26, 2012. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok