Worried about Your Kid Watching “13 Reasons Why”? Here Are 6 Tips
If you are worried about your kid watching the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, you’re right to be. There are disturbingly graphic depictions of violence, rape and suicide. At the show’s fictional Liberty High School, kids deal with bullying, sexual harassment and assault, drugs and alcohol, depression, and suicidal feelings all under the noses of clueless and incompetent parents, teachers and school counselors. In this way, the show sends the message to its teenage audience that adults are of no help with big adolescent problems. To make matters even worse, the show itself offers no resources to assist members of its audience who might be struggling with these issues.
The creators of the series have one thing right, however. Suicide and bullying are serious problems for adolescents. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, and a recent study found that 35% of the teenagers in its sample had been the victims of bullying. Saddest of all is that most of the kids who experience bullying and/or suicidal impulses will never tell their parents about their struggles.
It’s pretty scary stuff. I’ve written this guide to help you talk with your child about 13 Reasons Why. Here are six tips to have in mind as you start your conversation.
1. Keep it brief.
Talking about weighty topics is stressful for kids. Instead of having a single, long conversation of 30 minutes or an hour where you try to cover absolutely everything you want to find out, consider having four or five brief conversations of five minutes or less. It’s better to keep a conversation brief and end on a good note, than to talk too long and have your child tune you out. It’s very important to read your audience. If your child seems uncomfortable or resistant, stop talking. Try again in a day or two. Car rides are great times to casually ask a question or two about the show.
2. Focus on listening.
Active listening, rather than talking, is the best way to learn what your child is thinking, feeling and experiencing. Teaching, advising, making points and other forms of talking turn kids off. When your child opens up, even if it’s just a little bit, your child wants to be accepted and validated, not judged or criticized. Your child will be more likely to talk with you now and in the future if he or she believes you will really listen. (For a great guide to listening to teenagers see the classic book How to Talk so Teens Will Listen by Faber and Mazlish.)
4. Don’t overreact.