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It has to get better 

April 21, 2017

I’ve spent the last few days in a “13 Reasons Why” bubble. If you don’t know about the book or Netflix series by now, come out of your own bubble and I’ll tell you.

“13 Reasons Why” was first a book, but it’s now a Netflix original series, and people are talking about it.
A lot.
It’s the story of a high school sophomore who commits suicide, leaving behind a series of cassette tapes explaining why she did it. As a parent, parts of it were brutal to watch.
Someone asked today if my kids would be watching. For my 11-year-old? The answer is no. It’s not that I’m afraid for her to learn about issues covered in the show. For now, the age-appropriate conversations she has with me are more than enough.
When I first started watching, I thought about recommending it to my 13-year-old. Once I got further into the series, I changed my mind. Many of his friends are watching. Maybe they’re acting like they’re watching it, but they sure are talking about it.
Parents, listen up: you’ll want to watch, too. It’s not for the faint of heart. Just this week, I’ve talked to teens who say it’s a pretty accurate representation of high school in 2017. Whooo boy. That’s hard to swallow. Another teen went so far as to warn me and other parents that the show could trigger emotions in kids who’ve been sexually assaulted or who self-harm.
You know your kids. You know what they can handle. Don’t ignore this as just another teen drama on Netflix. It’s not for middle schoolers to watch on their own. It’s fodder for good discussions and it shouldn’t be ignored.
I’m pretty open with my kids. We talk about what they hear on the news. We’ve talked about sex. We’ve talked about bullying. We’ve talked about the dangers of the internet. We’ve talked about self-worth. I’ve told them to come talk to me anytime, because anything is fixable. There might be consequences, but there are no dead ends.
Even having had all of these discussions, the TV-MA rating given to “13 Reasons Why” is why our kids shouldn’t be binge watching alone under earbuds.
Parents, can we support each other on this? We all have to agree to stay tuned in. Know your kids’ passwords. Monitor social media. Did you know many apps have private messenger features? Yep, even Instagram, too.
Teach them not to sacrifice their values for popularity. Keep an open dialog and pay attention to how your kid best listens. I hope I’ve taught my kids to be there for their friends and to seek help when necessary. I tell them to listen to their friends. I remind them that it feels super crappy to be picked on and to remember that feeling when temped to make fun of another.
A main character in the show, Clay Jensen, sums it up pretty nicely: “It has to get better, the way we treat each other, and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”
Kids looking out for kids, parents looking out for other parents, and humans caring about humans. All of it matters, and it’s all part of the big puzzle. Let’s make sure our kids have all the pieces.
*originally published in the Metro Spirit, Augusta, GA on April 20, 2017

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2017 3:33 pm

    Welcome back….I missed your wit and wisdom. This is very timely and I’m glad my girls are all out of school (except for medical school and I don’t think there is too much bullying there). I learned a phrase several years ago and I drilled it into their heads… “There is nothing you can ever do that will make me love you any less. Nothing”. So far, so good. Regards from accross the river.

    • Jenny permalink*
      April 21, 2017 4:03 pm

      So nice to hear from you! I’m so bad about posting my columns on here. I’m gonna try to do better!

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