13 Reasons Why Parents Should Watch “13 Reasons Why”

It is likely that if you’re the parent of a teenager you’ve heard something about the new series called “13 Reasons Why,” or at least seen it on your “Recently Watched” or “Suggested for You” list on your Netflix account. The story tells about the thirteen reasons why a teen girl chooses to commit suicide. As you can imagine, this show has been both praised and maligned, so I want to make one thing clear. This show has a Mature rating (TV-MA) for a reason, and it is largely because of how graphically it depicts the difficulties of being a high school student as well as how graphically it depicts rape, masturbation, homosexuality, violence, and suicide.  These scenes are intended to disturb.  For further reviews about the specific content, here is one of the better Christian reviews I found on the show to help you determine if the show is appropriate for your teen to watch with you. Also, if you decide that this show is too graphic for your teen to watch (and I certainly think it is too graphic for young teens and probably most adults), you can filter what your teen can view on Netflix by following this link here.

 

Your first reaction might be, “Why would I want to watch that show?” Well the reason is simple: your kids may be and possible are probably already watching it.  If they aren’t, their friends are and they have at least heard about it. And if your kids are watching this show, you should watch it too so that you can help them process this heavy material.

 

And so, I would like to offer you 13 reasons why, if you do decide to let your teen watch this, you should be gathering your favorite movie snacks and spending some screen time with “13 Reasons Why” as well.

 

13 reasons for watching “13 Reasons Why”

  1. This show does not depict every teen. It may not describe your teen, but it might describe their friends and classmates.  Hopefully every story isn’t true for a single person, like in the show, but each story is definitely true for someone that your teen has contact with.   You can have an impact on their reactions to it and help them to respond appropriately.  There have been a lot of hateful, inappropriate memes created since the show’s release.  Be available to help your child respond in a caring, empathetic, and understanding way.
  2. If your kids are struggling with any of the issues presented, you want to be available to give them an opportunity to talk about it. If you don’t have a relationship with your child that is open to discussions of difficult content, watching this show together and talking about it is a step in that direction.
  3. It’s not rated G… or even PG… but neither are many of the circumstances they are experiencing or observing in their lives.
  4. The show engages with some gritty representation of real current social realities, especially with the influence of social media and texting. While it may not depict every school climate, it is much closer to real life than is typical for a teen show.
  5. Take this opportunity to share with your teen your fears or concerns for them and open a dialogue with them about why you make the rules that you do and why they make the choices that they do.
  6. The essence of the rest of my reasons are that your kids need you to be available to dialogue with them about the content of the show. With so many influences to their thinking and perceptions relating to these issues, let yours be one of them.  I encourage you to put yourself in a position to have more of an impact on your children than the parents in the show were able to.  I hope that the following reasons help you prepare for some potential points of conversation.
  7. The series depicts teens who feel trapped within stories and allegiances that make it difficult for them to decide to share, know what to share, and know with whom to share it. They want to talk to somebody who understands and can help, but struggle with deciding who that could be.  Be ready to talk with your child about how they might navigate a similar situation.
  8. None of the issues and scenarios presented are black and white and this is a story with no hero. There are always at least 3 sides to every story- yours, mine, and the truth.  Prepare to talk with your teen about differing perceptions.
  9. Prepare to talk with your teen about healthy social boundaries and how to interact appropriately with someone who seems to consistently experience problems and social drama.
  10. People don’t forget or heal as fast as gossip changes. Prepare to talk about the concept of time. Because of the fast pace of our connections with others, statements like, “that happened a year ago/a week ago/yesterday” and “you should be over it,” or, “it’s time to move on” are in the vocabulary and expectations of our society but are not always true of our experiences.
  11. Invisibility and loneliness have little to do with how many people are around. Prepare to talk with your teen about what it means to be seen, known, and loved by others.
  12. Prepare to talk about the power of guilt, blame, and responsibility. What belongs to you and what belongs to others? In the show, what belongs to the school, parents, other kids, and Hannah?  What were the effects of their various actions and choices.
  13. Prepare to talk about the power of words and the importance of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. Your words to others matter. The heart message of the show is to treat others with kindness, respect, and integrity.

A final note on these ideas:  also play the “spot the lie” game.  There is no such thing as agenda-less media presentations.  Prepare to talk with your kids about the messages being advocated to the audience of this show.  What is being honored?  Glorified? What is the role of faith in the show?  Are adults good guys or bad guys?  How much can we trust media to tell us the truth?  We need to prepare our kids to be active consumers of media.  After all, they are going to be consuming it when we aren’t there most of the time.

Do your best at being there for your kids and being open to them.  I hope that this article helps you mentally prepare for some of the conversations that will flow from the story.  The content of the show and these discussions might bring up your own difficulties and struggles.  It can be a great encouragement and bonding time to share your experiences and let you kids see that there is hope.

If the conversations get too heavy or deep, you may wish to seek out a close friend or the help of a counselor. Following the release of this show, people all over the world are muddling through these conversations. Let’s use this moment to intentionally highlight and prioritize kindness, respect, and integrity in our interactions with others.