Guidance for Parents on the 13 Reasons Why Netflix Series

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
May 15, 2018

Netflix is releasing Season 2 of its series 13 Reasons Why on May 18, 2018. As with Season 1, there have been numerous requests for guidance by parents in regards to whether to allow their children to watch the series, how to address the issues and topics raised, and ways to support children who may be upset, distressed or otherwise triggered by the content. The topics last year included sexual assault, suicide, and alluded to the possibility of a mass shooting occurring in Season 2. In addition, some young people may be watching, or rewatching the first season prior to viewing the second season.

Most experts believed that without appropriate safeguards (such as warning cards before each episode), vulnerable youth may be at risk for greater emotional distress or possibly engaging in harmful behavior, including increased suicide ideation and attempts. The National Association of School Psychologists has developed the following resource regarding 13 Reasons Why for parents and educators, and encourages adults to engage in and offer supportive conversations with youth who may be upset or distressed after viewing one or more episodes of the series.

Below are links to additional resources for parents:

  • The National Association of School Psychologists has joined with a consortium of education, mental health, and suicide prevention organizations to create an online toolkit regarding the second season of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The toolkit provides comprehensive, specific information regarding the issues portrayed and guidance for engaging and supporting youth.
  • Review things to consider before watching this series from our Healthy Minds Blog, Things to Consider 13 Reasons Why.
  • Netflix has created a discussion guide and added some additional warning cards for the second season of 13 Reasons Why.
  • Netflix cast members have recorded a video warning some viewers that they may not want to watch the series if they are struggling with similar issues, or to watch the series with a trusted adult. The video also urges viewers to “reach out for help” and “talk to someone” if they need assistance.
  • School psychologists, social workers, and school counselors can assist school administrators, parents, and teachers by engaging in supportive conversations with children and youth as well as provide resources and offer expertise in preventing harmful behaviors.

The following general recommendations are also offered:

  • Watch 13 Reasons Why with your child; youth who view this series may need supportive adults to help process the content. Help youth articulate their perceptions when viewing controversial content. The difficult issues portrayed do occur in schools and communities, and it is important for adults to listen, take adolescents’ concerns seriously, and be willing to offer to help.
  • It is not advised that 13 Reasons Why be watched in one continuous sitting due to the intense content, and especially not to watch the show alone. Youth need time to process the topics and any upsetting events with adults.
  • Reinforce resilience and protective factors that can lessen the risk that youth will engage in risk taking behaviors and foster healthy decision making. According to the Fairfax County Youth Survey, having three assets which include having parents available to help, teachers recognize good work, and community members available to talk to, make it less likely that students will engage in some risk-taking behaviors.
  • Above all, let your child or youth in your life know that you are a safe and trusted adult that they can come to if they have questions or concerns about their own or a friends’ safety. Reassure them that you will listen and help guide them to appropriate services and resources as needed.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.