Should I Let My Teenager Watch 13 Reasons Why, Season 2 ?
First, some background
The most tweeted about show last year on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why, is returning this weekend with the long-awaited Season 2. Netflix has drummed up a lot of extra enthusiasm for this next season by leaking hints about what will happen, but not letting us know until recently when it would be released.
Teenagers have been talking and tweeting about this next season with much anticipation, and many will binge-watch the whole thing when it is released this weekend.
Last year the release of 13 Reasons Why, Season 1 was met with much opposition from teachers, parents, and the mental health community alike. Season 1 depicted young Hannah Baker’s suicide in graphic detail, and all the events leading up to her misguided decision, including date rape, teenage substance abuse, and other controversial topics.
The show not only included graphic depictions of violence, but also portrayed responsible adults like school administrators, counselors, teachers and parents as being clueless and inept.
In my opinion, one of the most egregious problems with 13 Reasons Why is that it glorified teen suicide. Hannah Baker was shown to be something of a school idol–the opening scene depicts students creating and honoring a shrine at her school locker.
Hannah also gets revenge on the people who wronged her and she gets to watch it from her position as narrator.
And if this isn’t enough, at the end of the season, Hannah’s crush, Clay, in his own “Rodney King moment”, explains that her suicide should inspire them to all be better people.
Teenage minds are programmed to take in this kind of information as a real possibility. They don’t yet have the executive function necessary to parse out all the different and incorrect assumptions that Hannah Baker made.
This is where we, as adults, can make the most difference.
In the end, the answer to “Should I let my teenager watch 13 Reasons Why” is that this is the wrong question. After all, teenagers who want to watch this show will find a way to watch it, whether we want them to, or not. Instead we need to ask,
And talk to them you should! If you can talk your teenager into watching this show with you, you should do so. It will provide an excellent opportunity for you to discuss things with your teenager that are an integral part of “teenworld” today.
If your teenager isn’t interested in watching with you, and you know they will see it on their own, try to watch it yourself, or at least watch enough to familiarize yourself with the characters and some of the issues.
Before you talk to your teenager, or watch this show with them, take some time to reflect on your own feelings about some of the issues presented, like teenage drinking, teenage party culture, and teen peer pressure. Think about how these things affected your life as a teenager, and be ready to discuss some of those experiences with your teen.
There are resources available to help you discuss the issues presented in this show.
The JED Foundation and SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) have an excellent list of talking points from Season 1. You can keep this list by your side to refer to when you watch the show. These points emphasize that Hannah’s choices are neither healthy, normal, or romantic.
Make sure that your teenager has the numbers for the suicide hotline in their phone. They might need it in an emergency for themselves or for a friend. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or they can text “start” to 741741. Trained counselors are available at these numbers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Talk to your teenager about what to do if a friend is thinking about suicide. The National Association of School Psychologists has an excellent article called, Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide. This article lists the warning signs for teens to look for in their friends, and what to do if they notice them or if a friend confides in them that they are contemplating suicide.
The most important thing for a teen to know is that it is okay, indeed critical, to ask for help.
If they even suspect a friend might be suicidal, they should tell a trusted adult. Let your teen know that if they talk to you, you will find someone who can help their friend.
13 Reasons Why, Season 2, is bound to be somewhat controversial. As parents, teachers, school administrators, and mental health professionals, we should all be educated about the issues and prepared to discuss them with the teenagers we know and love.
Again, the Suicide Hotline number is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Some Other Resources that are available to you:
The Trevor Project, specializing in supporting the LGBTQ community, call 866-488-7386, or text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200.
National Alliance on Mental Illness- warning signs & other excellent information: