Alison Jacobson, the well-known expert on family and internet safety also known as “The Safety Mom,” has practical and insightful advice on how to handle the show 13 Reasons Why. It’s not a question of if the show should be watched, or if it comes up, because it will. The show has been renewed for a second season, therefore the buzz will continue among young people, and it’s critical that parents know how to handle the show’s content.
Here is The Safety Mom’s guidance:
- Don’t Blow it Off. Whether you think the show should be watched or not – I beg you not to blow off the show if your kids bring it up. The content of the show is about an important topic – teen suicide, with several other challenging topics along the way including bullying, rape and drugs. The good news is that the show has made us stop and talk about these massive problems. With over 5,240 suicide attempts in grades 7-12 each day in our nation, we need to be talking to our kids about it and answering their questions, getting their feelings out there. It’s too important to blow off.
- Parents Watch First. You may decide your kids are old and mature enough to watch the show, but don’t you dare let them watch it without you having seen it first. Watching it first will help parents know which episodes are suitable and which are not for their children, and will help develop a game plan of conversations and questions along the way. Trust me, your jaw will drop – be prepared for those moments. This will help promote a productive conversation with your kids.
- Watch Alongside. Once you’ve watched the show, make sure you watch it again, with your kids. Be there to answer their questions, see their reactions and see firsthand what they have to say. It’s not easy to watch, they will need you there next to them.
- Use Parental Controls. I can’t stress this enough. Kids know how to work a remote with their eyes closed. They may decide they are intrigued and go to watch it without permission. Make sure you block the program so that you can plan to watch it with your kids. The last thing you want are kids watching the show and then talking with their friends about it without you knowing.
- Create Teachable Moments. The buzz that 13 Reasons Why has created has provided parents and kids with a unique opportunity to talk to each other about tough subjects – bullying, drug use and suicide to name a few. Parents should use it as an opportunity to find out about their kids emotional state. Throughout the show, there are numerous examples of how people treat other people. Use these as ways to talk to your kids about behavior they see at school and how they handle it. Teach them how to react to these situations and what to do if they see it firsthand. The show will provide a stellar learning opportunity on character and why it’s important.
- Take Breaks. While binging has become a fun trend, it has major drawbacks on a show like this. The content is heavy and requires breaks. On traditional networks you’d see one show a week and have a break. Kids are watching all episodes in one sitting which can present big challenges.
- Parents of Girls – Be on Alert. In my observations, boys don’t care as much about shows like this. Girls are much more interested in this content and will share and discuss it at a much higher rate. Parents of girls – be aware! Ask your girls if they are interested or know about it. Find out how they feel about it and make sure they know where to go to seek help or report bullying or other behavior showcased on the show.
- Are our school counselors and administration equipped to handle kids in emotional distress? Kids that may be considering suicide? Make sure to ask those questions of your kid’s schools and investigate. Interview the school counselors and leaders to ensure your kids have a place to go and that there’s protocol in place that you are comfortable with in these situations. Parents, schools and community leaders all need to work together to help put these shows in context and make sure that kids are communicating about their feelings.
- Never Take Eyes off Your Home. There are multiple examples of teen dysfunction throughout the show, often times in their own homes. Sexual assault, drug and alcohol use to name a few. There’s no reason to guess what your kids are doing after school or on weekends when you are away if you have a home automation and surveillance tool in place. It may appear a bit like big brother, but you absolutely do not want your home to be a place of the type of activity repeatedly featured in 13 Reasons. The events that had the most damaging impact on the show’s main character, Hanna, happened in homes.
If you’d like to speak with The Safety Mom, she is available by phone and Skype interviews.