Today, Netflix’s notorious TV-series, 13 Reasons Why, comes out with a second season. After the profound cultural effect Season 1 had, particularly on young people and those with a history of mental illness, it is understandable that some parents may be feeling a little nervous.
We have yet to watch this season, so we are not certain of the content explored in Season 2. However we have a pretty good idea from what Netflix has shared, that the issues from last season such as suicide, sexual assault, bullying and violence, will continue.
One thing we do believe from quotes by the producers is that there will not be another suicide scene depicted. While it is a positive thing that such a graphic act will not be shown again, Hannah’s story will still play a strong role in the season and it is believed that Alex’s attempted suicide at the end of season 1 will be explored as well.
One of the greatest dangers of the show we believe, aside from the adult themes, is the fact that the entire season is made available at once on Netflix. Rather than watching an episode a week, where plenty of normal life can happen in between, the season can be ‘binge watched’ all at once. If we as adults can struggle with the self-control to stop binge watching our favourite show on a weeknight, when we have work the next day, then we can hardly expect teenagers to have more self-control and to moderate their exposure in the isolation of their own room.
Watching multiple episodes at a time in isolation, while sleep deprived, is a dangerous way for any young person to process the themes shown in 13 Reasons Why, so we recommend that restrictive measures are put in place to limit access to the show or internet.
While the series contains mature and adult themes, unfortunately it would be naive of us to assume that our young people are not already exposed to some of these issues through their friendship groups and school life. Depending on the age of your teenager and the boundaries already in place in your household, if they are old enough and determined to watch the series, we recommend that you find a way to play a part in their experience with some of the following tips:
1. Help your young person understand that they do not have to watch the show. Provide the perspective that, even though everyone else might be watching it, the hype is probably only going to last a couple of weeks, but the images and experiences of the show could last a lot longer in their minds…
2. Put a plan in place to ensure they do not watch the whole thing at once! Encourage your young person to keep their plans and commitments this weekend, or help them make plans so that they are not bingeing the series, especially at night. Perhaps you can agree that they’re going to break up the episodes by getting up and saying hi to someone in your house after each episode, or you could take them out for dessert randomly on Saturday night, or you could have the internet turned off at a certain time in the evening.
3. Recognise that some of the things that happen in this series may not just trigger personal memories or experiences for your young person, but may also be a trigger for experiences their friends have been through and shared. It is important not to downplay the impact their friend’s experiences can have on them, and still be there for emotional support or processing if needed.
4. Encourage your young person to watch it with someone! Either you could show genuine interest in watching it with them (making sure you bring generous snacks with you!), or encourage them to find someone else that they can watch it with, like an older sibling or friend who will help bring moderation. That way, if anything gets a bit much and they just need to chat in the moment, someone will be right there.
5. Do your research and go into your discussion about the show prepared. Headspace have some great resources to help and we produced a free Discussion Guide for the last season. If your young person makes a reference to the show, don’t pounce on what they said or them. Whether you are happy they are watching it or not, they don’t need your judgement in this moment, they need someone to process with and support them seeking further help if needed.
While talking about these issues is important, if you or someone you know is at risk, it is critical to get help from a professional resource or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.