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Parents around the country are weighing in on the controversial new Netflix series about a high school student who dies by suicide, leaving behind 13 audio recordings meant for the 13 people she holds responsible for her death.
Since "13 Reasons Why" debuted five weeks ago, school districts have issued warnings about the show, and the National Association of School Psychologists has published a set of guidelines for educators and parents.
Here & Now's Robin Young talks with Oakland, California, mother Libbi Ziegler and Newton, Massachusetts, mother Becky Manley, who have discussed the series with their teenage children.
On concerns about the show
Becky Manley: "So I think a couple of things are really troubling. No. 1 is, it's the story about Hannah, and she like a lot of teens is searching to be recognized, popular and accepted. And I feel like what the show does is it makes these things happen for her after she commits suicide. And so for me, it sends this message to, not just my girls — I work as a teen coach — but also some of my clients that, this is something that is successful and will get you what you want."
Libbi Ziegler: "I watched the show simultaneously with my 15-year-old. We were not in the same room. I watched it first, and then he watched a few episodes at a time, we got together and we talked about it. So I think that opening up all of these conversations, and opening up his thought process, and my thought process, about the differences in reality, and what the show portrayed. I mean I think that the producers of the show got a lot of things right. I definitely think that they got a couple of things wrong. And I think that to the point that they made Hannah in the end appear as a star, or have all these things that perhaps she wanted and did not get when she was alive, that's one of the things they definitely missed. But I think that having these really hard conversations that have to happen."
"Any child who is unstable, or depressed, or perhaps is going through one of these situations, I would not recommend this."Libbi Ziegler
On the show's capacity to spark conversations between parents and their kids
BM: "My worry is that many of the kids watching this are not watching it with their parents. I watched it with my girls as well. However, I think the bulk of these kids are watching it in their rooms, on their iPads, on their laptops. The other really big concern that I have is that, for my kids, if something happens, I want them to feel safe in their school environment and feel like they could go to their school counselor, which didn't happen in the show."
LZ: "Again I have two teenagers in my house right now, and one on the way — I have an 11-year-old — and they are three very different people. And, allowing my 13-year-old to watch the show I would not do. I don't want him to watch the show yet. We have talked about it, and he's fine with that. My 15-year-old, he's a very stable kid, he's a very emotionally intelligent kid. So our conversations have been more along the lines of, 'What would you do if you saw this? What would you do if one of your friends were depressed, or something didn't feel right?' His response to me was, 'If I felt that something was off with one of my friends, I wouldn't wait for them to come to me. I would go to them.' And I think that was such a beautiful answer, because there was something very positive that came out of this show for him. And I think that that message that he received is huge."
On whether the show puts a burden on kids to be more responsible for their friends' mental health
BM: "That was one of the responses from my 18-year-old. First of all, she said Hannah had some mental illness that wasn't talked about in the film, but she said it also made it seem like everyone was to blame for her suicide. And she's right. And I think it's an issue especially among adolescent girls, because they feel responsible sometimes for how their friends are feeling. And they talk to each other, and sometimes I worry that — especially since the counselor wasn't helpful — that kids would talk to other kids versus going to an adult for help and guidance."
LZ: "Just wanted to say too that I feel like, is it asking a lot to pay attention to their friends, and do something about it when they feel there's something going on? Yes and no. I mean I feel like, that's the direction I want my kid to go down life, I want him to keep his eyes opened."
On advice for other parents
LZ: "I would say that, as a parent, you need to trust yourself. You need to, in your gut, if your gut is telling you, 'My kid is not ready to see something like this,' or even if you're just questioning yourself if your child should see the show, then don't go there with them. Any child who is unstable, or depressed, or perhaps is going through one of these situations, I would not recommend this."
On the show's painful subject matter for parents
BM: "Especially the scenes where they... the suicide scene. It's almost like, a how-to for committing suicide. And if you have a kid who is really feeling badly, and you have a kid who's feeling like, 'Oh my gosh, I just can't go on,' and feeling just overwhelmed and having those suicidal thoughts, and then you have this how-to, and they watch the film, you just worry that it's giving them almost like a recipe of how to do it."
This segment aired on May 4, 2017.
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