My teenagers are now adults. Thankfully, they both survived being a teenager and came through it unscathed. I was never more thankful than after I watched “13 Reasons Why”.
This is not an entertainment review blog. That’s not the reason I’m discussing the Netflix series here today. Although it was an excellent series with some bone-chilling twists and turns, it was more than entertainment. It was a shock to my system. It was a wake-up call for parents. It was a commentary on the dangers of today’s teenagers and how being connected either online or with smartphones can multiply and exaggerate what used to be typical teenage experiences.
The premise of this series is one teenager’s path from hope to hopelessness. That path was driven by 13 different people. Twelve teenagers and one adult who either weren’t listening, didn’t care, or felt pressured by peers to participate in hateful acts toward her. With each instance of cruelty, her hopelessness increases leading her to take her own life. But, she leaves 13 tapes behind explaining what led her to do it. Each person had no idea. Each came face to face with their own cruelty and neglect.
Every parent of a teenager should watch this series. But be warned—it will scare the bejeebies out of you. And it should. Because the world our children and our grandchildren live in today is cruel—crueler than it has ever been. Bullies exist everywhere and the bullying is magnified by social media and smartphones. Your teenager is most likely either being bullied or is bullying someone. Yes, I did say that.
It’s time for parents to start paying attention. Don’t bury your head in the sand and say it can’t happen to my child. Don’t turn away and make comments like, “everyone is bullied.” Most of us were bullied as children in one form or another, but trust me, it was nothing compared to the extent of what is happening today.
I am not a psychologist. I’m just a parent. I raised two teenagers. Based on my own experiences, here are 13 reasons why “13 Reasons Why” parents should pay attention to this series:
- Your teenager will experience back-breaking peer pressure. Their peers will pressure them to do things they might not normally do on their own. Peer groups have a great influence on your teenager’s actions. Give your teenager the tools he or she needs to stand up to bad behavior and bullying.
- The stress and competition around the college process is overwhelming. There is no greater time for students to feel pressured and stress from their peers and adults than during college prep season. Some is self-inflicted stress, but they will also succumb to comparisons over GPAs, test scores, college choices, and college acceptances. Encourage your teen to pursue his or her own path and be proud of their own accomplishments.
- Kids are cruel; especially teenagers. It’s a fact of life. It starts in grade school—the teasing, the bullying, the “I’m not your friend” comments. It only intensifies during the high school years. A strong self-esteem and supportive family can help your teenager overcome the feelings of inadequacies that come with this type of cruelty.
- If you don’t know the signs of suicide, you can’t help. Educate yourself. Get information online. Go to parent seminars. Talk to the school and ask what resources they have in place to help students. Finally, don’t ignore the signs. If you see your teenager needs help, don’t be afraid to get it.
- You should make it clear in no uncertain terms that bullying will not be tolerated. If you don’t want your teen to be bullied, you should make it clear that you will not allow bullying from your teen. If you see it happening, confront it. If you see it happening to another teenager, inform their parents. Get involved and encourage discussion.
- If you don’t talk about this now, it will only get worse in college. Now, while you have them at home, is the time to confront these issues of bullying, teen suicide, social media behavior and mental illness. Once they are away at college, it’s harder to see the signs and even harder to help.
- Social media is a game changer. Years ago, bullying was done face to face. Now, it happens online and with the use of smartphones. Social media allows bullies to remain anonymous and harm their victims without having to be face to face. It also makes it harder to fight and diffuse the bullying.
- Texts, group texts, Snapchat and other means of communication make bullying much worse. When you watch this series, you will see how group texts and social media contributed to extending the bullying from one student to an entire school. Talk with your teenager about the danger of this behavior and monitor their smartphone and social media activity.
- The suicide rate among teenagers is alarming. According to the Center for Disease Control:
Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24; suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18; more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from any disease COMBINED; each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12; four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs
- Most teenagers have a side their parents see and a side their peers see. You may think everything is fine because your teenager tells you it is. But appearances can be deceiving. Take the time to listen, communicate and spend time with your teenager. Make your home a safe space where they feel free to talk about any subject without judgment or condemnation.
- Do not let your teenagers watch this without you. There are explicit rape scenes, nudity, and an actual depiction of suicide in the series. If you feel they must watch or are already watching, watch with them and have discussions after each episode.
- Kindness won’t stop a person contemplating suicide, but cruelty certainly contributes. It’s clear that a person contemplating suicide will require more than kindness to change their mind. However, the amount of cruelty and hatred a person endures can be a contributing factor. Your teenagers should be aware of this and you should make it clear that you won’t tolerate any hate speak or cruel words directed towards others.
- Your teenager’s peers shape their lives. Our friends dictate our actions. That’s why it’s important to choose our friends wisely. It’s important for your teenager to have a few close friends they can confide in and trust. These friends will help counteract any negative input they receive from others. My teenagers’ friends were literally their lifeline in high school and college. Help them choose friends who will raise them up and not tear them down.
If this isn’t enough, read this post from a parent whose son attempted suicide and watched the series: “13 Reasons Why” Scared the Shit Out of Me—And It Should Scare You Too!
Now go watch “13 Reasons Why”. But fair warning—it’s going to scare the bejeebies out of you. At the very least it will make you pay attention. At the very most, it could help you save your teenager’s life.