By Rachael Moshman
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of “13 Reasons Why.” Every third article on Facebook feed is about the Netflix show. (Or maybe that’s just because of the content of my feed and the fact that I follow outstanding news outlets like Pop Sugar and Teen Vogue. That second one is actually surprisingly meaty.)
“13 Reasons Why” is a series based on a 2010 YA novel by the same name. It tells the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who ends her life by suicide after making a series of audio tapes for the people who hurt her along the way. The tapes are for thirteen people, hence the title. Some committed small acts against her that snowballed into something big. Others were the kind of trauma that changes a person forever.
The Internet is freaking out. Experts are asking for Netflix to remove the show. My Facebook friends are sharing post after post about the dangers of letting your children watch. However, most of the parents I see freaking out haven’t watched the show themselves.
I have a different perspective. I think all parents, teachers and other professionals working with kids and teens should hit play and binge watch it right now. Get some tissues, a soft blankie and some Ben & Jerry’s ready and dive in.
Why adults need to watch “13 Reasons Why” . . .
1. Your kids are going to watch it. Sure, maybe you forbid them from checking it out. Do you really think that’s going to stop them? They have access to Netflix away from you. They have access to the book. Their friends are watching it, so they’re hearing about it if nothing else. You can’t keep them from it, so watch it yourself so you know what it’s all about.
2. These things are happening in your kid’s school. Binge drinking, weed, bullying, sex, sexual assault, cutting, mental health issues, physical violence. These things and more are happening in high schools all over the country. Don’t put your head in the sand. This isn’t just TV drama. It’s real and you need to know about it.
3. Important issues are discussed. Kids need to know the warning signs of someone in crisis and what to do about it. They need to know these things happen, but help is available.
4. Teenagers deal with heavy things…and they often don’t have the tools to cope. Your kids are either dealing with some really big things or know friends who are. “13 Reasons Why” shows how quickly things can go so very badly for a person. Many teens don’t have the coping skills to deal with what happens to the fictional characters in the show on their own, let alone problems that occur in their own life or with their actual friends. Use it as a starting point to access where they are and help them build the skills needed to deal with hard stuff.
5. Your kids are going through some serious issues. Use this show to check in. Ask which character they relate to the most. Ask them if they know anyone like Hannah, Alex, Tony, Clay, etc. Ask what they would do in similar situations. Tell them stories of hard times you went through as a teen. Use it as a way to connect.
6. Kids can’t process this on their own. “13 Reasons Why” will make you uncomfortable. It will make you sad. It might even make you physically sick to your stomach. There are brutally graphic rape scenes. The suicide scene we all know coming is so much worse than you expect. You will be triggered, but you need to watch all of this so you can help your kids process it.
“13 Reasons Why” is hard to watch, but do it anyway. Then discuss it with the young people in your life. This show opens the doors to incredibly important conversations. Use it as a tool. It could be just the in you need to make a real difference in the life of a kid you care about.