Wow! I’m sure by now you have heard concerns relating to the latest Netflix craze. The Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why” is based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher. This story goes through the high school life of a teenage girl who ultimately commits suicide. The character, Hannah, provides the reader with 13 reasons why she felt the need to take her own life. Each reason introduces a new character who has their own set of problems they have to deal with and solve. Hannah’s story shares real, hard topics that are occurring in High Schools (maybe even middle schools) across America. Schools have sent out warning letters because of the graphic nature and what they believe is the glorification of teen suicide.
It’s time to have those hard conversations!
I was able to watch the entire series prior to my children (18, 15 & 12) seeing it. When my oldest was in middle school, she was bullied. She was bullied every day while at school, on the bus, and even on social media. My daughter didn’t know what to do she started to slip into a deep depression. She acted out, cried a lot and locked herself in her room. At one point, she even started experimenting with “cutting” to make the pain she felt stop. I did everything that I thought was the right thing to do. I went to the school and had her removed from certain classes, completely changed her schedule, even went as far as confronting the “bullies” parent. No matter what I did, I just felt as if I was failing her.
I don’t know exactly how she did it but she ended up turning her life around during Freshman year and turned every negative experience into something positive. She chooses to only see the positive in life, has chosen to forgive the girls that bullied her and left their fate to karma. Her story could have ended so differently if I didn’t step in, or if I didn’t see or know the signs. She could have been Hannah. However, she knew I was there for her and that she could talk to me…and trust me. I don’t think a lot of high school kids have that type of relationship with their parents and that is half the battle.
Does 13 Reasons Why glorify suicide?
I asked my daughter who has seen the series if she thinks it glorifies suicide. She had a different take on it. She felt that it didn’t necessarily glorify suicide but it glorified the notion that Hannah needed someone in her life to save her, that she couldn’t or wasn’t strong enough to save herself. My daughter felt that this series brought important subject matters into the forefront of our discussions. These are topics that so desperately need to be talked about. These are subjects that parents can no longer hide from. We, as parents, need to have open and honest discussions about things that are happening right under our very own noses.
Rape does happen to high school girls, in fact, 1 out of every 5 girls in grades 9-12 are either sexually or verbally abused. Teens do have access to their parent’s guns. Underage drinking is still a thing. Drug abuse among tweens and teens is happening at the middle school level. Hate crimes, body shaming, gay bashing, it’s all a part of our children’s lives whether we want to accept it or not. It is our job as parents to have these discussions early on and to be proactive in the events that occur in our children’s lives. 13 Reasons Why brings each up each topic in a way that is real. It provides parents and children the opportunity to have the discussions that could potentially change even just ONE child’s life.
13 Reasons Why is a dark and very deep show to watch.
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED. Each day in our nation, there is an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12. — JasonFoundation.com
13 Reasons Why is a dark and very deep show to watch. It was heart-wrenching. In fact, I had to turn away from the actual suicide scene. I couldn’t bare to watch it. I cried real tears. It made my heart hurt so bad for Hannah and for the mom who had to find her daughter. I cried because, at one point, I thought that could have been me! That could have been my child. Then I thanked God that it wasn’t. I cried again for all the parents, families and friends that have had to pick up the pieces after teen suicide. I cried for those who have experienced sexual assault; for those who are fighting their own mental health issues and for those who want to stand up for those being bullied but are too afraid to come forward. All I could do at that moment was cry.
There are more shows that provide you with opportunities to teach your child about life in a way that is positive and that you can control. Take a look at the Netflix cheat sheet below. Pretty Little Liars has a huge following among girls and could be a great way to discuss the different levels of peer pressure. Grey’s Anatomy can teach your teen how they can deal with stress. Every day teens are faced with at least one stressful situation and by knowing how to handle even the smallest amounts of stress, it could prove to be a lifesaving tool. Believe me, these are shows that your child or teen has most likely already watched on their own or with friends. Don’t miss this valuable opportunity to connect with your teenager.
Teens want to be heard!
I know we are all busy, I am guilty of being “busy” too. I have come to realize that the only thing my children want and/or need is me. They want that quality time and to be heard. They want to be accepted for who they are. 13 Reasons Why gives you real life issues and topics that are extremely difficult to discuss, however, if they are talked about with you, you could possibly change the entire tone of your relationship.
Do I think teens (boys and girls) should watch this series? Absolutely! These issues are relatable. They could change how teens they approach situations such as dating, sexual abuse, underage drinking, bullying, and suicide. By watching this (with their parent) it helps to start important discussions between parent and child. It also lets the teenager see a different perspective on how their words and/or actions affect another person. It shows the reality, though it may be extremely difficult to watch, it shows the reality of suicide and how it hurts those that they leave behind.
More than one in every 10 high school students reported having attempted suicide; nearly 1 in 6 students between the ages of 12-17 have seriously considered it. –Youth Suicide Prevention Program
Each character (as I mentioned in the first paragraph) presents a different situation. One teen is bullied, has a problem with drinking, had raped, was raped, comes from a broken home, sexual harassment, drinking, and driving, parents are never around…these are all real life issues! If for one second you think they are not happening in every high school across the United States, you need to start having heartfelt discussions with your teen! As a parent, do not be afraid to ask the hard and often times tough questions. This Netflix series shows just how impressionable young people are and have always been.
Let Netflix be the common ground!
Netflix did a study that reveals that if you want to feel closer to your teen, watch their shows. 70% of parents wish they had more to talk about with their teen. 83% of parents have watched a show their teen watches. 74% of teens are interested in talking to their parents about shows they watch. If you don’t talk to your teen, plain and simple, they won’t talk to you. Make the first move and have discussions with them. They need you.
Has my 15-year-old son watched this? He hasn’t watched it yet though a majority of his friends have and have told him to watch it. They have said that they would tell other boys to watch it. I will watch it with him because he is more sensitive. I do worry about how he will handle situations relating to sexual abuse, drinking, drug use and suicide. If watched under my supervision, it could build upon the bond that we already have. I will continue to preach that he can come to me anytime he is experiencing a stressful situation. He will learn that he can trust me and can come to me with any problem, big or small.
Has my 12-year-old daughter watched this? No, but all of her immediate friends have. Will I let her watch it? Yes, with me present and when she is interested in watching, we will. I will stop/start the series and answer any tough questions she has. Will it be uncomfortable dealing with issues of bullying, sex, drugs, alcohol and suicide? Yes, it will be, without a doubt. I want to equip her with knowledge and coping skills so that I can prepare her for the good, bad and the ugly of the world in which we live in.
My final thoughts….
Bottom line, in my opinion; watch the series first. It is for mature audiences so use your discretion. Kids over 17 can and should see this series. I personally feel that all high school aged kids should see 13 Reasons Why. After you and your child have watched the series (preferably together), ask questions and just listen! It will, without a doubt open the lines of communication. Don’t be afraid to have the tough conversations. By having these important and very hard discussions with your child, it might just make your relationship that much stronger and could save their life.