If you have not heard about it, your kids likely have. 13 Reasons Why has become one of the most watched Netflix TV shows ever. And that is worrisome.
First, this show deals with some very mature themes. These include suicide, depression, underage drinking, rape, premarital sex, drug use, broken families, homosexuality, revenge porn and bullying.
Second, this show is graphic in its language (frequent use of the F-word) among other things. There are a couple times where nudity is shown, however no frontal nudity. There are scenes depicting multiple sexual assualts, and the final episode graphically shows the main character committing suicide. It is a difficult show to stomach and keep watching.
Third, while at times I think this show exaggerates high school life today, for the most part I do believe it’s accurate. I attended public high school (graduated in 2008) and I was surrounded by many of the things this show reveals. However, this is why, with the warnings I mentioned above, I do think this is an important show for you as parents (not recommending to your students) to sit through. High school has changed since I was there, but I think too often we are naive about what our students are dealing with, and this show does a good job shedding light on reality.
So what do we do with this show? There’s a good chance your son or daughter is either watching it now or at the very least hearing their friends talk about it. Here are my suggestions, and I don’t say this having any experience parenting a teenager! I’m also not trying to tell you how to parent, just offering my perspective in an attempt to partner with you.
- If your student isn’t watching it, start a conversation with them about the show from what you know. If they want to watch it, I would suggest watching it with them. It is better for them to watch it with you, and have someone to process with instead of sneaking to watch it. The issues are too heavy for our students to be dealing with alone. If they are watching it without you, they are processing those issues in the dark.
- If your student isn’t watching it, and has no intent to watch it, I think it would be helpful for you as parents to see it. You will not only gain perspective on your student’s life at school (and with peers), but also gain perspective on the issues that come with everyone having an iPhone in their pocket (something we didn’t deal with).
- If your student is watching it (and you can confirm this by going to your “Account Settings” on Netflix, then to “Viewing Activity”), then I truly believe you should start also. It will be offensive and difficult to watch, but your student needs to have someone to talk with about this show. This can also be a great opportunity for you to engage your student on topics that may not normally come up.
There are many things our students go through on a daily basis. We need to be there for them to process and to remind them of the hope of Jesus Christ. That is the significant thing missing from the show. There was no Jesus.
Hopefully this show can help open up conversations with them you/we wouldn’t normally be able to have and get them talking.
Here are some additional resources and articles written about 13 Reasons Why that you may find helpful/insightful:
- 13 Reasons Why… Looking for True North (Center for Parent and Youth Understanding, cpyu.org)
- CPYU Podcast Discussion, 13 Reasons Why
- Talking Points with your son or daughter
- 13 Reasons Why and its unintended consequences
- A Parent’s Primer on Social Networking
- A Parent’s Guide to Cyber Bullying
- Providing an “Escape Plan” for your student