Posted on: May 26, 2017
Welcome to ASK AN EDGE EXPERT! Every month one of our Excellent Edgewood Clinical staff will write about a topic that is relevant in the community. We encourage you to grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable and get ready for some great reading and thought provoking topics.
Featured Expert: Nicole Thompson-Wilson, PsyD
13 Reasons Why: Should Your Kids Watch?
As many of you have heard, 13 Reasons Why has been the latest binge watch fodder on Netflix. But unlike other popular shows that include graphic content, 13 Reasons Why explores the darker side of the high school experience thus lending itself to an audience of younger viewers. This show focuses on the experience of a sophomore who documents the series of events that contributes to her decision to commit suicide. So I’m sure the question that comes to most parents is: “Should I let my kid watch this?” Well, in my opinion the answer is maybe.
So although this question ‘’should I let my kid watch?’’ is a difficult one; from my perspective, the question becomes easier when you ask, “Should I watch this show with my kid?” My answer would be ‘‘Absolutely!’’ I think it would give parents and young adults an opportunity to discuss taboo topics such as suicide, rape, substance use, and bullying in the context of the characters. This could facilitate a conversation that is more open and potentially less guarded from the teen and less lecture-y from the parent. Watching this show can also give parents more insight in some areas of the current high school experience that they may not have had experience with as a teen. Namely texting and social media’s roles in spreading rumors and gossip and the devastating effects that those can have on someone’s reputation and self-image.
One reason why it is so hard to give a yes or no answer about whether pre-teens and teens should be allowed to watch such shows is because every kid has a different set of life experiences and a different set of potential vulnerabilities. In my experience working/ talking with many teens who have watched the show and who have contemplated or attempted suicide, they all saw this program very differently and identified with different characters. There is always the risk that a teen will over identify with a character who has decided to take their own life, but I’ve always believed that when dealing with difficult subjects, NOT talking about them, NOT acknowledging that they exist, NOT acknowledging that people make mistakes, does NOT make these problems disappear, they just go underground. For my money, talking is always better than not talking, so If 13 Reasons Why starts a meaningful dialogue, it may be worth it.