13 Reasons Why: a Parent’s Guide

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You may have heard of Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why, or maybe your teen has expressed interest in watching it or already has watched it. The series is attracting some controversy over its key topic, teen suicide. So here is a Parent’s Guide to 13 Reasons Why:

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What is it?

The Netflix Original Series 13 Reasons Why is based on the best-selling Young Adult books by Jay Asher.

The series follows Clay Jensen (played by Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush, who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Before taking her own life, Hannah creates 13 cassette tapes, each one dedicated to a person who somehow played a part in her decision to commit suicide, causing guilt and paranoia between members of the selected group. On the tapes, Hannah explains the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life.

What should parents know?

The series covers a number of heavy topics, obviously teen suicide, but also, bullying, sexual assault, and depression.

Netflix does warn you before a few of the more difficult episodes to let you know what’s coming.

There is lots of swearing too. The IMDB Parents Guide gives a good roundup of what’s involved.

Nic Sheff, the writer of 13 Reasons Why, has been forced to defend the show’s decision to include the graphic suicide scene. Some people are worried it is glorifying suicide.

He writes, “When it comes to suicide, I believe the message should be exactly the same. Facing these issues head-on—talking about them, being open about them—will always be our best defense against losing another life. I’m proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations, because silence really does equal death.

We need to keep talking, keep sharing, and keep showing the realities of what teens in our society are dealing with every day. To do anything else would be not only irresponsible, but dangerous.”

If you’re thinking of watching 13 Reasons Why with your teen and are looking for additional information, here are some talking points about 13 Reasons Why to help guide your conversation. There’s also an after-show titled 13 Reasons Why: Beyond The Reasons.

And if you are immediately concerned about a teen in your life, you can find a list of local market resources on this 13 Reasons Why Global Resource Website.

Over to you now. Have you watched or has your teen watched 13 Reasons Why? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.