Hey, Parents, “13 Reasons Why” is Finding Its Way to Your Teens Whether You Like It or Not

The Netflix Original, book-to-screen series, 13 Reasons Why, is generating controversy. Teens. Bullying. Rape. Social media. Suicide. Drama. It has all the makings of a must-see. But that doesn’t make it a must-see for everyone.

Why "13 Reasons Why" is the conversation starter you need to check in with your teen.

“13 Reasons Why” isn’t for everyone

Whether or not you choose to watch 13 Reasons Why and whether or not you choose to watch it with your teen is an informed parenting decision you need to make. As a parent to a 13-year old girl who will be entering high school next year — and who, coincidentally, is named Hannah — this series struck a chord with me. But, if you’re like me, you may want to ask your peers, who have similarly-aged children, whether they’ve watched — or are planning to watch — this program.

And that’s what I did. After reading a couple of cautionary articles (the likes of which are cropping up daily) I put the question out to my friends. Those who responded to me directly had already either watched it solo or with their kids. The general consensus was that the series had sparked some very open conversation about difficult topics. No one, including myself, went into it lightly.

Understandably, there are those who, for reasons of their own, will be uncomfortable watching this show. Some have deemed the subject matter potentially traumatic. Others feel these important teen topics can be handled without the assistance of a graphic program such as this. There is concern about the triggering effects of certain scenes. Others, still, feel this series sensationalizes suicide or glamourizes its vengeful nature. But I needed to experience 13 Reasons Why personally, in order to formulate my own opinions.

Why you, the parent, need to be aware of “13 Reasons Why”

So I decided to first watch all 13 episodes — plus the after show — alone before inviting my daughter to watch them with me. In the meantime, I asked Hannah if — or what — she had heard about the show or the book. Guess what? Kids at her school were already all over this series. And while she was curious, she knew I wanted us to watch it together and has been avoiding all talk surrounding the series.

When I asked her if the other kids’ parents were watching 13 Reasons Why with them, she said she didn’t really know. It seems some were actually watching on their devices either on the way to school or during breaks. Wait. What?! This is not an appropriate viewing environment for so many reasons, not the least of which is the risk of having sensitive content fall on younger eyes! I have to assume the parental units are unaware, because come on, folks: there is a time and a place.

Parents, this is why I encourage you to watch 13 Reasons Why or at least inform yourselves of its content before your kids get to it. Because despite any best laid plans, if there’s buzz around it, kids will seek it out. These are some tough topics using explicit language and depicting hard-to-watch situations which might be triggering to some. Knowing that they have a safe place to watch it and discuss what they’ve seen or heard is equally as important as being there with them, potentially leaving them less inclined to “sneak around”.

Why "13 Reasons Why" is the conversation starter you need to check in with your teen.

Watching the same shows as your teen creates common ground and makes for some great conversation.

7 Reasons why you should watch “13 Reasons Why” with your teen

  1. Creates a bond. Sharing this viewing experience will create a common ground and perhaps strengthen your relationship.
  2. Provides safety and comfort during difficult scenes. My daughter and I are only two episodes into 13 Reasons Why. A parental buffer will be necessary during the heavy episodes, which are preceded by a content warning.
  3. Encourages openness and availability. My husband and I are a tag team in the parenting arena. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who your kid confides in, as long as they are talking to someone they can trust.
  4. Boosts awareness of changes in behaviour. We are just beginning our foray into the teen years. As defining as that is, it’s important to remember that teenhood spans seven years. Being attuned to changes in your child’s behaviour during this period of development is crucial.
  5. Reminds you that growing up is hard. The tendency for kids to want to do all the grown-up things is no different than when we were that age. Except it seems to be happening even faster. It’s up to you to keep up and guide them along.
  6. Tunes you into your kid’s social habits. With the abundance of social sharing and streaming mediums, our kids literally have the world at their fingertips. But, parents, please don’t misjudge your kiddo’s maturity for the ability to process certain subject matter that is intended for an older audience. Check in regularly. And, hey, it’s okay that your 13-year old isn’t watching Grey’s Anatomy yet, even though everybody else is doing it.
  7. Promotes conversation around hard-to-talk-about subjects. There is a whole other level of pressure to conform these days and it’s up to you to parent your child through it. Because kids have access to more at a younger age, you may need to field some uncomfortable questions. You may also need to listen a whole lot.
Why "13 Reasons Why" is the conversation starter you need to check in with your teen.

Connecting with your teen through different stages means you may need to brush up on these shows.

I wish we lived in a world where things like bullying, cyber bullying, rumour mongering, sexual assault and suicide didn’t happen among our children. But the fact is, these things are happening. They are hurtful and tragic and leave life-long emotional and physical scars. There is a part of me that wants to protect my kids from ever seeing all that ugliness. I realize, though, that awareness and preparedness is more important than naïveté.

At the end of the day, you and you alone are responsible for making the decision to whether or not to explore this show. No doubt your kids are talking about it, though, so I urge you to be informed and open up the conversation. Do you plan to watch or have you already watched 13 Reasons Why with your teen? I’d love for you to share what your teen’s and your thoughts are in the comments below.


Additional resources

Netflix took much care, research and consideration in the filming and presentation of this series. If you are considering watching 13 Reasons Why with your teen and would like additional information to help ease the conversation, consider the following resources:

Created by SAVE.orge and the JED Foundation: 13 Reasons Why Talking Points
The after show: 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons
If you are immediately concerned about a teen in your life, find direct links to a local market of resources at: 13 Reasons Why Global Resource Website

Disclosure

I am a member of Netflix Canada’s #StreamTeam. This means I am compensated for bringing the latest in Netflix news to you via my candid monthly posts. Sometimes there’s even a bonus thrown in for my readers, so be sure to subscribe to my email updates so you don’t miss a post!

About Erica

Erica writes with humour and heart about family, #fit40s and living life in the carpool lane. Part-time banker by day and Netflix-addicted-cake-decorator by night, Erica's in-between time is spent dreaming up ways to ruin her kids' lives. Obviously.
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