The recent news that 2 California teens committed suicide after watching the Netflix series"13 Reasons Why" comes on the heels of the announcement that the series will be renewed for a 2nd season. The families claim that "13 Reasons Why" triggered the teen suicides, both girls having battled depression in the past and having watched the show within days of taking their own lives.
Is the show to blame?
Can the show really be to blame for the teens' suicides? Netflix had already strengthened and added new warnings to viewers before watching the show. But is that enough? As a teen, are you really in a place to set aside warnings when all your peers are watching and talking about "13 Reasons Why"? The show is clearly marketed toward teenage viewers regardless of the TV-M rating and the intent to bring awareness to parents of sexual assault, bullying and suicide. Consider the viewer who is emotionally stable and able to watch the show, separating fiction from reality. Now consider you are a teen - an emotional teen who battles anxiety, depression and faces bullying at school. Is there a difference between the impact of the show on these two different viewers? I think it would be foolish to ignore the impact that the show can have considering the life circumstances of the viewer. Even if you or your kid watched the show and had no adverse reaction, be aware of those around you that may not have had the same response.
What can parents do?
There was plenty of outrage over this show when it was first released which only seemed to increase the exposure to the show. With another season now on the horizon, will more families claim that watching "13 Reasons Why" triggered their teen's suicide? John Herndon, father of Bella who took her life after watching the show said he is working to being talks with Netflix with the goal of asking them to pull the first season of "13 Reasons Why" and to halt production on the second season. Additionally, he would like to see that Netflix take new measures to better inform parents of mature content accessible to kids.
For now, monitor your kid's Netlix watching by checking the "Continue watching" on the account or us the parental controls to restrict mature content. Warnings can only do so much especially if the parent isn't even aware of the warning. I volunteered at my son's intermediate school book fair. When I rang up a book, it displayed a reader warning. I told the child buying the book that there was a mature content warning but I knew that warning wasn't going to go anywhere. How would the parents even know about this warning since it only popped up while I rang up the book at the school's book fair? If you aren't going to be able to stop your kids from consuming material that you haven't screened, talk to them about what they are watching, reading and talking about at school. Talk to other parents and let them know about the issues surrounding "13 Reasons Why". Even schools have sent letters to parents warning them of the show. Share on Facebook. If the show must go on, warn others about the content of the show so they can at least be aware.
Also, keep talking to your teen! I know it's easier said than done. I know teens don't want to share with parents what is really going on. But don't give up. Keep interfering. Keep trying. Watch for behavior changes and be ready to listen when they're ready to talk - even if it is about the small stuff. Stay involved in their lives to the greatest extent you can. Knowing friends of your kids is just as important as knowing your kid.
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