(This content is a translation of the original article in Macedonian, published on the 8th of December 2022)
Parents should teach their children about the limits of privacy in the physical and the online world, while at the same time, a solution should be provided to secure support for young people. These were the main conclusions from the debate in the Cinematheque of North Macedonia, on the 8th of December 2022, which followed the screening of the film “Sisterhood” by the director Dina Duma. High school students actively participated in the debate.
The debate, moderated by the journalist Goshe Nikolov, was dynamic and interesting for the young people in the audience, which actively engaged. Apart from the director Duma, Radmila Zhivanovikj, licensed psychologist, European accredited psycho-therapist and MA in communications, also answered the questions from the audience.
Andrew Brand, Head of Programme at the UK Embassy in Skopje, opened the event in the Cinematheque with a video address. The screening of the film and the debate were part of the project “Credible News for Empowered Youth” implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation and supported by UK AID of the UK government and the UK Embassy in Skopje.
“Sisterhood” deals with a current subject, showing what is happening with the young generation, including peer/cyberbullying, as part of their lives. Duma explained that the film was a real-life story, from the time when she was a secondary school student.
The story about two inseparable teenagers whose friendship is put to the test when they got involved in the incidental murder of their peer, provoked young people to ask whom to turn to if they become victims of bullying.
“When I was 15, in my school, a girl who I did not hang out with so much, was recorded having intercourse with a boy. The boy was proclaimed a hero, while the girl had to change schools, change her personal appearance to protect herself, and finally, leave Macedonia because her parents thought that that was best for her”, Duma explained.
She explained that the media played a big role in the public condemnation of the victim of bullying, including the national broadcast TV channels. Instead of denouncing the act, the media broadcasted the video and became part of this cyberbullying.
This event inspired the young director to shoot “Sisterhood”. The casting lasted six months, so she had a big opportunity to enter the adolescent world and she got a glimpse of their problems.
“We have the responsibility but we are doing nothing as a society. We must understand that this generation was born with the internet. As adults, we do not know what kind of pressure that creates. We all come from another system that is a remnant of former Yugoslavia, which was a much stricter system. This generation, however, has no connection with that system. That should change. The educational consultants should open up for this generation to hear what they need and thereby reach out to them”, Duma said.
Zhivanovikj stressed that the film shows cyberbullying as a consequence of certain toxic systems, regardless of whether they originate in the relations, the adults. or the school.
“What distinguishes cyberbullying from ordinary bullying is the quick spillover effect. Shame is an emotion that is in the foundation of all types of violence, especially in our culture. We are ignorant of this aspect. From the shame springs fear, fear from becoming an outcast,” Zhivanovikj said.
According to her, the film shows images that we do not want to see, but that was what the film was all about – to penetrate deeper in the personal stories of young people.
“We can’t wait for society to help us or for the systems to mature and protect us. Here we can also see disrespect for the border between personal and private. As individuals, we do not know how to communicate with respect. That is why I think that technology is not the only thing that we need to learn how to use. We have to change our attitude, as well, and the interactions we have”, the psychologist added.
According to Zhivanovikj, with the first indications that something is wrong with the mental health of the adolescent, the usual comments are” “Cmon… You young people fear too much”.
“Adults see young people stereotypically. We do not teach them about their privacy limits, both in the physical and in the online world. Mocking happens… we have a story that intensifies in the online world, but the repercussions are in the physical world”, Zhivanovikj added.
Everyone in the discussion agreed that young people should know where to report if they encountered a problem with this kind of bullying. But they also need to know what would happen after they reported the act. According to psychologists, pupils need to be informed about bullying in the fourth or fifth grade of primary school.
“The solution is to provide services to support young people. If I go to a psychologist, I should know that he/she will protect me,”, Zhivanovikj stressed.
Young people participating in the discussion asked where to turn to should they have a problem i.e., to whom. Zhivanovikj explained that should be an adult person, someone they trust, someone who will direct them and not condemn them.
“Teenagers/adolescents tend to separate themselves from their parents. The film showed a great deal of dysfunctionality. We can see that no matter how much the parent tried, he/she cannot reach the child. As parents, we need to be aware about all the changes that the children will go through. We should be able to recognize when he/she is in a good or in a bad mood when he/she is closed up and does not want to talk. We should keep the contact alive”, said Zivanovic.
The topic of this year’s edition of the 18th International Conference e-Society.mk organized by Metamorphosis Foundation was “Cyber Resilience for Freedom and Security”. The event lasted two days. Apart from the screening the film “Sisterhood”, seven panel discussions, two inspirational speeches, and a TV debate took place within the framework of the conference.