13 Reasons Why my Kids will NOT be watching 13 Reasons Why

And what I do like about the show

Disclaimer: I approach parenting as my sacred “job”. An opportunity to see into the soul and spirit of children, to teach them and be taught by them. Entering conversations and situations in a mindful way seeking first to understand and then to be understood. I write pugnaciously on issues that some parents shy away from.
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Mom, Can we watch a show on Netflix?

Casually at dinner, my girls not quite teenagers, ask if they can watch a show on Netflix?

I’ve always been a little protective about the amount of TV they might watch and then the shows — Bob the Builder and Sesame Street were the ONLY approved shows for years and years. I personally don’t watch TV and didn’t think my kids needed to watch it either. Besides, I had too many other things to do with my kids, watching TV was the last thing I would consider spending our time on.

Now that they are older they check in with me on shows that they might want to watch, we talk about it and then I make the final call. Usually, I say yes. (It may not be how I would want to spend my time but I’m respectful of them wanting to watch certain trendy television shows.)

Back to Dinner

I ask about the show 13RW. Then excitedly begin to explain to me “It’s a girl who kills herself and each episode is a reason why it is someone else’s fault.”

I believe my answer was “Hell NO!” and then I remember trailing off into a monologue on kids, and suicide, TV being trash . . . when I finally came up for air . . . we actually had a calm discussion about the show, the first of many. Then I had a private discussion with my teenage son to get his input. Without even watching the show, I just said no. In the coming days we discussed suicide at length. We discussed how people kill themselves and about how Hannah, the girl in the show, killed herself.

No doesn’t always mean NO

My daughter was at a friends house and ended up watching part of the show. They watched it on a website called SockShare on the school issued Chromebook. Those of you who know me or have watched my videos will understand the heartbreak, confusion and a little bit of anger I felt in that moment. Now what?

Well, I called the school. We spoke again about the show and the website — you do not need Netflix to watch. I did not rat out the friend. I put my kid on electronic lockdown. I watched 13 Reasons Why and knew that I wanted to write about it.

It has taken me months to be in a non-judgmental place. Although my goal is to be mindful and practice sacred parenting, it doesn’t happen in an instant for these hard issues — for me it takes time to digest, formulate and integrate a mindful approach.

13 Reasons Why I don’t want my kids to watch the show

  1. Kids need to understand that this is a story. Hannah is an actress and so is Bryce. As I watched the show I was totally sucked into the drama and it seemed real. Very real. I almost forgot that I was watching a show. I honestly wanted Bryce to die — that’s how compelling it was for me. For a moment, a grown woman, forgets she is watching a show.
  2. Suicide is real. You don’t come back. You aren’t there to see people memorializing your locker or crying. Suicide is death. You are dead. As we talked about suicide it became clear to me that developmentally kids don’t really understand what dead is and isn’t. In my childhood education classes I did study and learn the developmental stages but living it is so different than a textbook. Those stages are guidelines for development and nothing else. Each kid is different and will respond differently. We need to be prepared to help them manage the emotions and questions they might have, now and down the road.
  3. I don’t want my kids to think that every party has drugs, alcohol and rampant sex. You can have a great time without sex, drugs and rock and roll.
  4. I don’t want my girls to have the notion that losing your virginity by being raped is the norm. So yeah, that happens in 13RW. But, after talking with numerous women about the show — more often than not, they lost their virginity because they were drunk at a party. They didn’t go to the party to be raped, they went to the party curious to see what it would be like to get drunk. The rape scenes were hard to watch for me personally. The acting was impeccable and as Hannah was in the hot tub with Bryce I felt her pain, her loss of self, part of her died and I know all too well what that feels like. I want my kids to be alert, aware and informed and they can be that without the help of Bryce and Hannah. I want my kids to be protected in a way that I was not.
  5. This is a show set in a high school. I think it is more appropriate for an older audience to bring light on tough subjects. This is not High School Musical.
  6. Suicide is not a solution to problems. I suppose it is “a” solution but not one that I would want to encourage with a show such as 13RW. Suicide should not be a teen’s go-to move when life gets tough. Kids need to know they can get help and be supported.
  7. Suicide is a personal choice. Hannah leaves tapes behind letting people know how they contributed to her suicide. It should be viewed as tragic and nothing else. Suicide is never the fault of the people left behind. Hannah tries to make her suicide a group effort and that is flawed.
  8. The guidance counselor wasn’t the most supportive person available to Hannah. I want my kids to know that if they need to talk with someone . . . they may need to reach out more than once and to different people. It has been suggested to me that I put Text “START” to 741741 on their phones in the notes section in case they need someone to talk to. I still need to do that.
  9. Friendships are complicated. 13RW shows how friendship is a web of emotions. It doesn’t need to be this complicated. Understanding what friendship is and isn’t and what a healthy relationship includes needs to be explained to kids. Watching all of the dynamics in the show was anxiety producing for me as an adult. Kids are so interconnected 24/7 via social media the lines of privacy get blurred.
  10. 13RW is a dark, intense story just not suitable for younger teens. Full stop.
  11. Cyberbullying, body shaming, sexual assault, sexting, underage drinking, DUI, lying are all topics that need to be addressed with our kids but maybe not all at the same time. 13RW has so many layers it is a bit overwhelming. I understand that my kids will be exposed to all of these things and more but I don’t think I need to force feed them.
  12. 13RW glamorizes a sub culture of disrespect. Treating people like crap is not ok. It’s not cool. It’s not funny. I don’t want my kids to get the impression that it is glamorous in anyway. I believe that everything we put out into the world comes back to us in one form or fashion. Everything!
  13. Just because other kids your age are watching 13RW . . . doesn’t mean you should. My parents always said “if someone jumps off a bridge, would you?” I always thought that was a stupid thing to say — of course I wouldn’t jump off a bridge BUT I would and certainly did engage in risky behaviors. I wasn’t taught about what was right for me as a person, rather it was swooping generalizations that I was expected to adhere to. I want my kids to be able to think critically about their lives and make the best choices they can with lots of compassionate and respectful support.

This is where the sacred parenting comes in.

13RW can be a great opportunity for parents and kids to discuss tough subjects. But I don’t want my kids watching Hannah’s drunk friend raped because of the “bro code”. I don’t want them to see someone kill themselves. In time they will have the opportunity to experience all that life can throw at them. For now, I need to honor, respect, protect their spirits. Each one of them individually.

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