WHAT IS THE BEST ENEMIES EDUCATION PROGRAM?
Best Enemies is a community-based education program that illustrates the issue of cyber-bullying through a 12-minute film based on a true story of a 15-year-old girl whose best friend betrayed her in a bullying campaign conducted via SMS and online messaging. The film covers the perspectives of both the victim and the bully to promote a deeper understanding of underlying issues facing victims, bullies, bystanders and the people who are affected around them such as their families and wider communities. The program was developed in consultation with youth psychologists and the Australian Teachers of Media. It comprises of a DVD of the film or a school screening, a workshop, an education kit which contains a study guide with lesson plans, worksheets, incident assessment tools, action plans and info sheets.
HOW DID THE FILMMAKERS BECOME INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT?
Best Enemies was inspired by a true story. A family friend approached the program founder and told him the story of how her 15-year-old daughter fell into depression after being relentlessly bullied by a group of girls from school – including her former best friend. They made up songs about her, spread rumours and lies using SMS and online messaging and made her life a misery.
Her mother came to Ross because she wanted him to tell the story so that no other parent would have to go through the same agony as her family had endured. “At that time, I didn’t realise what the consequences were until I started talking to her about the experiences of her daughter,” Ross says. His subsequent research shows that the circumstances and experiences are similar around the world. “We have drawn stories from around the world to produce Best Enemies,” he says. Darren Bark adds “The biggest problem is that there’s a lack of understanding from teachers, parents and young people themselves. They don’t understand how it works. And I think until they do they are not going to have the tools to know how to deal with it.”
WHAT’S BEST ENEMIES ABOUT?
Rebecca, 16, leads a perfect life until her best friend Amy reveals a terrible secret to the other girls at school. The betrayal leads to bullying and social isolation. Rebecca is not even safe from the bullies in her own bedroom because they use social networking sites, SMS and texting to spread their lies. Rebecca turns to a boy she meets online leading to disastrous consequences.
WHAT’S THE AIM OF THE FILM?
1. To show young people that their actions online have consequences offline.
2. To make young people aware of the choices they should be making to deal with or prevent the problem.
3. To show and portray to parents the issues teenagers confront in the ever- changing environment of online social networking.
4. To empower teachers and schools with the relevant tools and information to combat the growing risks associated with cyber bullying and online media.
5. To combine both an educational and entertainment component to directly relate and connect with teenagers and students.
6. To initiate discussion between parents, teachers and students in a comfortable environment and setting.
HOW CONFRONTING IS THE FILM?
This is a confronting film. However, it is specifically designed to initiate discussion on this issue. Students, parents and teachers want to talk about the characters and their experiences. It gives them an easier platform to talk about what they’ve been feeling because of the film. All have noticed that the film doesn’t just deal with cyber bullying, it touches on a lot of other youth issues as well.
WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE?
The film captivates young people and connects on their level to explore the causes and consequences of these issues. We have spoken to many young people about their experiences as part of our research. The type of bullying has not changed. The method and channel has. The number of platforms young people can now use to communicate has quadrupled. The name calling is still in the classroom, however, now it’s also texted on mobile phones or messaged online and can be sent to many more people.
One of the key points that we have found is that the bully and the victim are interchangeable. That’s one of the significant things people overlook. While the focus is frequently on the victim of cyber-bullying, in many cases when you look at the bullies a lot of their behaviour is fuelled by their own insecurities. After watching Best Enemies, people are motivated to talk about the issues because the film relates to what they’re feeling. All the feedback tells us that it’s an effective way to show the consequences of cyber bullying and Best Enemies allows them to touch it and feel it without having to experience it.
WHERE HAS THE PROGRAM TOURED SO FAR?
Best Enemies launched in September 2009 and a broad range of schools, and organisations are now using the film as part of their cyber safety programs, Best Enemies has visited hundreds of schools across a number of cities, communities and organisations to present the film and run discussions and workshops.