Many teens may automatically label documentaries as “boring.” Let’s face it: They’ve probably been forced to watch old videos of World War I or the life cycle of plants in class. In a warm room with the lights off, it’d be hard not to fall asleep.
But not all documentaries are a total snooze fest. After all, documentaries are intended to show real aspects of everyday life and your teen’s life is anything but boring.
We’ve rounded up four documentaries that teens can relate to. These films may change their perspective and can even inspire them to make a difference in their own lives and communities. If you’re a parent, have a movie night with your kid. If you’re a teacher, add one of these to your next lesson plan.
This documentary intimately explores how bullying affected five kids and their families. The filmmakers show a heartbreaking look at what bullied kids face on a daily basis, the pain their parents go through, and the response of teachers and administrators.
Many parents and teachers don’t see bullying firsthand, so this film will be an eye-opening experience of what it’s really like for students. You can watch this film with your teen, but there is some strong language and tough topics, such as suicide. It can be a great way to open a discussion about bullying and the role of those who witness and experience ridicule.
The movie prompted the launch of a national campaign to stop bullying called The Bully Project which teens can get involved in.
TEDxTeen Talks (2010-2014)
You may have heard about TED, an annual event where innovators and leaders gather to present talks on what they’re passionate about. Since 2010, an event has been held every year for young people to do the talking. Teenage scientists, musicians, and innovators have been able to share their passions and inspire other teens to do the same. In the video above, violinist Gabi Holzwarth plays a rendition of “Royals” before sharing her story about overcoming abuse and an eating disorder.
You can view all the talks from each year by visiting the TedxTeen website. Some of our favorites include “Opportunity, Just What the Doctor Ordered”, “How to Change the World”, and “A Teen Just Trying to Figure it Out.”
Miss Representation (2011)
The film uses advertisements, movie and television clips, and interviews to show how the mainstream media stereotypes and trivializes women. Teens, political figures, and movie stars are interviewed throughout the film.
Teens are constantly bombarded with images that depict women in an uncomplicated, oversexualized light. This documentary may help both girls and boys re-examine how the media portrays women. There is some strong language and images of women in sexualized settings.
In hopes of inspiring individuals to work toward gender equality and challenge stereotypes, The Representation Project was launched.
If You Build It (2013)
Teens are capable of incredible feats and this documentary is proof. In this documentary, local high school students work with designers to improve their lives and transform their underprivileged community. The designers used high school shop class as a way for students to build things to improve their community.
The film teaches teens that with the right support and resources, they can drastically make a difference to unfortunate circumstances.
What documentaries do you recommend for teens? Share in the comments! For more true teen stories, check out Choices—a health, well-being, and life skills magazine for middle and high school students.