When our cable costs started to soar, we did like any family in 2017; we turned to Netflix & Hulu. I haven’t looked back, and can’t wait to spend that $1,000 of savings on something fun for the boys.
But there’s a problem with streaming and all of that instant access to television; adolescents are watching more and more unsupervised things on their screens. Let’s be honest, it is hard to see what a kid is watching on their phones, and it takes a lot of committed parenting to supervise screen time.
Now, Netflix has added one more thing that you need to add to that list about parenting your kid in 2017- monitor their watchlist. Closely.
13 Reasons Why claims that it is the story of “a teenage girl’s perplexing suicide, and the tapes that she left, found by a teenage boy.” Each episode traces part of the story, but never really gives any answers about suicide- because in real life, there aren’t any. The main character’s suicide is shown on screen, and each episode seems to send the same message- her death could have been prevented, if only…
But here’s the catch.
There’s piles of research that showing on-screen suicides only glorifies the action, and study after study shows how this causes increases in the action. Honestly, I read this CNN post after talking with a mom who lost her son to suicide a year ago. She understandably was too enraged about the show to continue the conversation beyond our surface level discussion.
Here’s the gist of why the show is perpetuating suicide:
- They may simplify suicide by suggesting that bullying alone is the cause.
- They may make suicide seem romantic by putting it in the context of a Hollywood plot line. A simple, logical, and well-connected plotline may satisfy the story arc needs of a viewing audience, but it is rarely, if ever, the way that suicides really happen.
- They may portray suicide as a viable option, one that can be an understandable outcome given a particular set of circumstances. In nearly all cases, people who die by suicide have a diagnosable (and therefore treatable) mental health problem at the time of their death.
- They may display graphic representations of suicide which may be harmful to viewers, especially young ones and those who are highly sensitized to suicide imagery, as most attempt survivors and loss survivors are.
- They may advance the false notion that suicides are a way to teach others a lesson, and that the deceased person will finally be understood and vindicated. They won’t. They’ll still be dead.
Here’s the truth: suicide rates are on the rise.
We need to talk to our kids about suicide, about this show, and about why they shouldn’t watch it. Because let’s be honest- kids are watching this thing. And they’re talking about it.
If we’re going to have any chance of actually helping kids, we need to be a part of the conversation. We cannot ignore it. (Its kind of like saying let’s not talk about condoms because we don’t want kids to have sex! Well, that’s what that surviving mom wanted you to know.)