Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and Talking With Your Child

By Gloria Gilbert - 05/10/2017



A cautionary warning to parents regarding the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, and recommendations for their children. Article by Cynthia Shaheen, Principal, Horizon Honors Secondary School. Recommendations by our PCS Psychologist, Dr. Gloria Gilbert.

Your child’s safety is always at the forefront of my mind. Last week a new Netflix series debuted that has caused some alarm. Adapted from a young adult novel, 13 Reasons Why is a fictional story of a high school girl who commits suicide after leaving behind 13 cassette recordings for the 13 people she names as responsible for her death.  Mature issues abound throughout the series including rape, teen drinking, voyeurism, and graphic imagery of the portrayal of the actual suicide.  While the story could help parents start conversations about isolation, bullying, and depression, the way the series addresses these issues is complex and confusing for impressionable viewers.

The show has caused much conversation and social media buzz about teen suicide especially among 5th – 12th grade students. On the surface this could appear positive, but suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Our PCS Psychologist, Dr. Gloria Gilbert, has provided insight that one of the noted risk factors for teen suicide is the viewing of media portrayals and the phenomenon of “suicide contagion”. Research has shown that teens are more susceptible to contagion than adults resulting in an increase in suicide attempts and deaths after being exposed to the suicidal behavior of others. 

I recommend all parents consider the intensity of this series as well as the social-emotional maturity and well-being of their child before allowing any viewing. If your child is watching the series I would recommend you discuss the show with them or even watch the show with them prior to discussion.

Speaking openly and directly with teens about suicide is very important. The Society For The Prevention of Teen Suicide has some great suggestions on how to approach the topic, which can be found here. 

–Article by Cynthia Shaheen, Principal, Horizon Honors Secondary School


Dr. Gilbert has also provided some additional links and further information on suicide related topics can be found below.

Influences of the Media on Suicide   

Influences of the Media on Suicide – National Institutes of Health

Suicide Contagion

To Talk or Not to Talk? The Dilemma of Suicide Contagion – The Conversation

Teen Suicide is Contagious – Newsweek

Young People Especially Vulnerable to Suicide Contagion – Standard Examiner


Resources Specific to 13 Reasons Why

Talking to Your Kids About 13 Reasons Why – The Mighty

13 Reason Why – Common Sense Media

Does 13 Reason Why Do More Harm Than Good? – Junkee


What Parents Can Do…

Suicide Prevention – National Institute of Mental Health

Managing Media for Teens and Tweens – Common Sense Media


Additional Resources

Healthy Mind and Healthy Body: Suicide Prevention Guide

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