The new season of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why releases Friday, May 18, which means that romanticized conversations about suicide, depression, bullying, and sexual intercourse will most likely take place in your child’s school and among their friends. Parents, instead of ignoring these conversations, we must help our children view them from a biblical perspective. It is my prayer that you initiate conversations in your home to help your children navigate conversations outside of their home. Here are three questions for consideration followed by a concluding challenge.
Should I allow my child to watch 13 Reasons Why?
Two verses in particular from God’s Word provide insight regarding any form of media. First, Proverbs 15:14 says, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feed on folly.” Second, Psalm 101:3 says, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” What enters your mind has a tremendous effect on what you think; therefore, fill your mind with things that are right and will produce good fruit. Regarding 13 Reasons Why, the cliché “garbage in, garbage out” rings true. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the content of this series, and do so without even pressing play.
13 Reasons Why is rated TV-MA, which is comparable to a rated R movie. The American Family Association wrote an article about the content of this series and said the following: “Targeted at teens, the Netflix series is rated TV-MA for mature audiences only; it is full of gratuitous profane language, excessive drug and alcohol use by high school students, homosexuality, empty friendships, bullying and violence, graphic sex including two rape scenes—one likened to soft porn, and a full-on, raw, very real and gruesome three-minute depiction of a teenage girl committing suicide.”
Parents, we need to take very seriously what we allow to influence our children. As a parent you have the right to determine what your child does or does not watch. Remember, it’s ok to say no! Personally, I believe the content of 13 Reasons Why qualifies as not only garbage, but ungodly. My children, to include my middle school and high school children, will not watch this Netflix series.
Should I watch 13 Reasons Why with my child?
I like the sentiment behind this question because it suggests that parents should transition into more of a coaching role as their child gets older. However, for the reasons listed above, it is reasonable to say that this series is not appropriate for adults either. This is a good teaching opportunity for your children. It’s important for children to understand there are things that no one should allow to enter their mind—adult or not. Being an adult means discerning what is true and right as Philippians 4:8 says. It means having the wisdom to say, “This is not for me.” Parents, demonstrate this for your children. They want to see you practice what you preach!
Is there anything I can learn from watching 13 Reasons Why?
While 13 Reasons Why brings to light a topic that otherwise hides in the shadows, the inappropriateness of the content far outweighs anything you can gain from watching it. Instead, start a conversation with your children about depression and suicide that is rooted in scripture.
God’s Word is filled with truth and wisdom concerning suicide, depression, and despair. Ecclesiastes reminds us that God is our hope even amidst the darkest and seemingly futile times. David, Job, Elijah, and Naomi are among some of those who struggled with these issues. Parents, know that you are not alone. Here are some resources to help start conversations from a biblical perspective: suicide, depression, despair. Here are sermons from Pastor Rob on these topics: depression, despair.
Take an active role in your child’s life.
No one has more potential to influence a child than their parent. You can't afford to bury your head in the sand or hope that someone else will take care of it. Rather, remain alert and use these conversations to teach and instill a biblical worldview in your home. Below are six questions written in an article by Timothy Paul Jones to help you teach your children how to engage media from a biblical perspective.
- What in this movie reflects God’s good and beautiful design?
- What in this movie is inappropriate and unworthy of imitation?
- What false narrative is this movie trying to tell us?
- What truth about God’s world does this movie tell us in spite of itself?
- What does this movie present as the answer to our brokenness and the brokenness of our world?
- What is this movie’s vision for the way life ought to be?
Parenting in the world today is difficult, messy, and unfortunately doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Let me encourage you to keep at it, because what you do over time matters. Parents, your children need you now more than ever!