Manitoba·PARENT COLUMN

13 Reasons Why you may want to keep your kids from a series on suicide

Children of all ages are watching the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, but should they be? There are at least 13 reasons why you may or may not want your child watching the teen suicide drama.

'I just don't think kids should be watching it,' says mom of 10 year-old

There are at least 13 Reasons Why parents are watching a new Netflix series on teen suicide, and one of them is to decide whether the series is good for their kids.

"There's so much garbage already on the TV that the young girls try to emulate ... sounding older, seeming older. No. Please God, just be 10," said Sarah Willman, the mother of a 10-year-old girl.

Recently, Willman's daughter asked if she could watch 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix series based around a teen girl's suicide and the 13 people she sees as being responsible for her death. The story is delivered through a series of cassette tapes, each of which reveals a new trauma faced by the main character, Hannah Baker, including an intimate photo gone viral, and a case of serious sexual assault.

The series is controversial, to say the least, and has some mental health experts issuing warnings, while some educators are banning kids from even talking about the series at school.

When Willman learned that other children in her daughter's class were watching the series, she wrote a letter to the teacher with the intention of alerting other parents.

"If parents want to let their kids watch it, that's fine, but just make sure the other parents know their children are watching it. I really don't believe most of the parents in her class are aware of what their kids are watching on Netflix," said Willman.

Make time for the series and your kids

Tammy Aime set aside an hour at a time to slowly wade through the series with her 16-year-old daughter.

"We experienced sadness, we experienced anger, we experienced shame in our own relationships," said Aime.

As the series goes on, we learn there is a lawsuit against the school involving Baker's suicide. Aime said that in many instances, the staff seems more concerned with the lawsuit than how students are coping with the suicide.

"That's something that my daughter and I talked about a lot, with the guidance counsellors in the school being there but not always being super available when someone has a struggle," said Aime.

One of the biggest concerns among mental health professionals is that the series could be triggering for vulnerable teens, which just might be behind the series' popularity.

For Aime's daughter, it is an honest depiction of what teens face every day.

"She's in Grade 11 and there is a lot of depression, there's a lot of self-harm, there's a lot of anxiety, there's a lot of sadness, there's even a lot of sexual inappropriateness against drunk people at parties.... The environment in high school is hard. You have to meet these standards — I don't even know where they came from — and then you have social media recording every minute of it," said Aime.

While there were some uncomfortable moments, Aime is glad she watched the series with her daughter. She stressed the importance of parents being aware of what their kids are watching.

"I don't censor my kids at all, but I make myself available if they need to talk about it," said Aime.

While Willman is in no hurry for her 10-year-old to watch the series, she is open to talking about it.

"The more knowledge kids have the better. I'm not against [the series] because it depicts sex, I'm not against it because it depicts hard issues. I just don't think kids should be watching it," said Willman.

"It desensitizes us a little bit every time we see it, and 10 is too young to be desensitized."

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