Controversial Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” gaining traction with teens and tweens

(WTNH)–“13 Reasons Why” is a book turned Netflix Original Series. The book was written by Jay Asher and was first published in 2007, and the series debuted on Netflix on March 31, 2017. Since its release, the series has been receiving mixed reviews from parents and educators while quickly amassing a teen and tween audience.

“In Netflix’s version of the book, there are many more graphic scenes around rape and drug use and a lot more aggressive language that would not necessarily be appropriate for all ages to view,” said Jennifer Hernandez, an Assistant Professor of Education at Quinnipiac University.

The premise of the story is a teenage girl commits suicide, but before she does, she sends 13 tapes to people that she believes caused her to kill herself. Henrnadez says the book can be a great learning tool for kids and parents, but the series can be hard to digest.

“It’s a parenting judgement call if you feel your child is ready for that but I would definitely watch with,” she said.

The graphic nature of the show is even prompting some school districts to reach out to parents, warning them of the content. Fairfield Woods Middle School sent a letter to parents that reads:

“Dear FWMS Families,

We would like to make you aware of a television show that some of our students may be watching on their own time. The show is based on the book, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It is available to view on Netflix and contains very mature subject matter including suicide and rape. We understand it’s a parent’s decision whether or not they allow their child to view the film; however, there is a valid concern related to the fact that the content of the film may serve to normalize or even sensationalize very dangerous behaviors. If the child views the film with or without parental consent, the links below have talking points which provide some useful information for parents about how to address the content with their child as well as recommendations to seek support if indicated.”

Henrnadez says if you think your child isn’t watching, you are probably wrong. Kids will encourage others to watch and share their accounts with each other to make that happen.

News 8’s Jacquie Slater’s son first mentioned the series to her last week. A quick look at his Netflix account showed he has watched the entire series.

On facebook Killingworth mom Andrea VanderWiede wrote:

“My daughter mentioned it to me last week. I have just started watching it so I don’t yet know all that it entails but I think from what I have read it is quite graphic. My thoughts on that and in general on parenting teens who literally have access to the world at their fingertips is that no matter how much control we think we have, we don’t. I have used it as an opportunity to discuss teen suicide and what signs might be there that kids are struggling and need help. As I watch the episodes, I plan on talking to Kayden about the 13 reasons. Hoping this is the right approach….wish there was a parenting in 2017 manual!”

Hernandez says talking and sharing is definitely the right approach.

“They’re gateways to having important conversations and even starting at the age of 12 because we do know that substance abuse and sexuality is starting younger,” said Hernandez.

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