As some of you are probably aware, a show on Netflix called “13 Reasons Why” was recently released dealing with the topic of teen suicide. I walked through the living room while Brittney was watching this show and quickly got hooked. We watched the whole season within a couple of days. (long and time consuming, but glad I am up on what it is). I would like to take a minute to bring you up to speed from my perspective.
What I fear with this show: the idea that teenagers may see Hannah’s (main character) solution as a ‘way out.’ This show also has the ability to bring up old wounds, or current wounds, that teenagers are struggling with, which can cause depression.
FIRST OFF, this show deals with some very mature themes; including suicide, depression, underage drinking, rape, premarital sex, drug use, broken families, homosexuality, revenge porn (no pornographic images are shown explicitly, but rather assumed) and bullying.
SECONDLY, 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 assaults, and the final episode graphically shows the main character committing suicide. There were times, and the suicide scene is one of them, where I could not stomach it to watch.
Special note: this is not a show to watch for entertainment, but rather to be informed. As Christ-followers, we are to remain pure and that can happen by watching this show through the lens of maturity (while at times having to look away).
THIRD, while at times I think this show exaggerates high school life today, for the most part I do believe it’s accurate. Though I attended little old Bridge City High School, this
show still accurately depicts what could happen at any school. However, this is why,
with the warnings I mentioned above, I do think this can be an important show for you
as PARENTS (not recommending to your students) to be aware of. This is not a recommendation of the show, but more of an “if you’re going to watch the show, here’s what you need to know.”
High school has changed drastically since I attended, and from my understanding is night and day from my parent’s experience. I think too often we are
naive about what our students are dealing with, and this show does a good job shedding light on some possible reality.
SO WHAT DO WE DO WITH THIS SHOW?
There’s a good chance your students are either watching it now or are hearing their friends talk about it. If your student is younger or you are safe at home, there is always a chance of seeing this at a friends house. 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, in my opinion, 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 could be helpful for you as parents to see it. You will not only gain perspective on possible scenarios your student may face (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 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. Your student may also envy this chance to catch you up with what they’re dealing with day to day.
Through my experience (though limited) in working with students struggling with either depression or suicide, we need to be on the lookout for subtle signs that a student is asking f
or help. From my experience, it is difficult for students to outright ask for help. They struggle with saying, in person, “I’m thinking about hurting myself.” There is too much shame from their perspective.
I don’t have this figured out to a science by any means, but I would suggest offering your student an easier way to tell you they need help.
This link brings you to a blog about helping your students get out of tough situations with their friends, but could be adapted for this purpose as well. http://theparentcue.org/an-escape-plan-for-teens/
Again, I’m trying to offer my perspective on this popular show that almost certainly your students are familiar with to some extent.
If you want to have a conversation with me about this, I welcome your calls/emails as well as scheduling appointments to meet together. I’m usually around the office from 10am-4pm Monday-Thursday and would love to meet with you.
I write this not to get your kids in trouble, but for those of you who are parenting teenagers, it’s important to be aware. I do not want teenagers to watch the show, relate to the bullying, and find Hannah’s (the main character) actions to be a way out.
To conclude: always be aware of what your teenager is watching, doing, listening to, etc. They may think you are “hovering,” but sometimes as the parent you need to hover.
I’ve included a PDF file of what’s written above in case you would like to share it or keep it. Click the link below and from there you can hit “download.”
Director of Student Ministries
The Bridge Youth – St. Paul Church