Should I let my teen watch 13 Reasons Why?

Netflix aired this controversial show back in March and its created quite the buzz in middle/high schools across the country. For those that have no idea what on earth I am referring to, feel free to google – but essentially, 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix drama based on a 2007 novel written by Jay Asher. The main character, Hanna Baker, creates 7 tapes detailing the 13 reasons she decided to take her own life. I will whole heartedly admit that I began watching this show after hearing about it from the kids I see only to stop after the first 30 minutes or so into the 1st episode. There was no way I could make it through a show centered around a teenager’s suicide. It was difficult to watch, but I knew I needed to. My kids were talking about it, wondering about it…thinking about it, and so I needed to be in.  I’ve had all kinds of questions asked by parents and educators about this series, generally centering around is this a show that I should let my kid watch? Valid question, the show is intense. Hopefully my thoughts here will help you make an informed decision:

1.       “Letting”…there is something about teenagers and telling them they most certainly CANNOT do something… does this ever work? In my experience, this typically increases the likelihood that they’re doing to do it anyway, and just not tell you. So let’s start there. Parents DO need to filter things for their teenagers, and this show is no exception. I encourage you to watch it first, and get a good idea of what the show exposes them to; so there are no surprises. Truthfully, if you’ve got a resourceful, tech savvy teenager – like many are – they’re going to find a away to watch.

2.       Watch together – ugh, *eye roll from your teen* Yup, I’m making that suggestion. This show is a perfect partner to start some really difficult conversations with your teen about bullying, relationship violence, mental health issues like depression…and yes, suicide. These are all difficult subjects, and not talking about them will not shelter your child from the reality that….these things happen, and yes, the issues mentioned before don’t care what part of the county/city you live in, where your kid goes to school or who their friends are.

3.       Age and maturity should factor into your decision on whether or not to ok your teens viewing this show. The contents are, at times, graphic. The topics are intense. The adult influences and over all support is almost non-insistent. This isn’t meant to scare you (none of this is meant to scare you), but rather to serve as a cautionary statement- screen the show first.

Over all I have mixed thoughts about this show. In several ways, it’s good for our society and good for families to see how mental illness can effect anyone, and that it’s OK to talk about it. This show will not make your teenager consider suicide, but it may help open up a conversation that desperately needs to be had.

 

If you know someone who is suffering from a mental health issue in silence. Please encourage them to seek help by calling the Common Ground Sanctuary (open 24/7) 248-456-0909 or 800-231-1127 or visit the suicide.org website for more supportive information: http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/michigan-suicide-hotlines.html