By: Danny Huerta
Friday’s release of the second season of 13 Reasons Why, the popular teen television drama, is bound to generate enormous interest – and controversy.
According to a Northwestern University study, the show’s highly-rated first season on Netflix significantly increased conversations among teens on difficult topics, but not necessarily in positive or healthy ways.
The same study also revealed that almost 80% of teens and young adults who watched the show felt it helped them understand the ripple effect of their behaviors, but it didn’t necessarily inspire them to reach out and repair relationships with those they hurt.
In other words, the show has helped them realize the impact of their actions on others, but it hasn’t inspired them to take any action.
On the parent front, approximately 56% of moms and dads said the show has made it easier to have conversations on difficult topics with their kids. But many also said they wished they had more information from experts on how to effectively navigate these difficult conversations. It’s one thing to have conversations and another to have effective and productive conversations.
Welcome to the paradox of modern-day television.
If you’re a parent trying to navigate the phenomena of this latest show and want to be able to talk about it with your teenager, I hope you’ll check out our Parent’s Guide to 13 Reasons resource page. It contains a discussion guide download, a podcast series, resources from our Plugged In team and more.
In the meantime, beyond the specifics of 13 Reasons Why, here are nine ways that you can begin developing what we call “media intelligence” in your home:
- Discuss conformity and the mind. Read Romans 12:2 together and talk about how this applies to media as well. Develop a media contract as a family. Discuss how media and the characteristics noted in Philippians 4:8 go together. Discuss ways to look for these and notice these characteristics in media.
- Seek to understand. Why does your teen want to watch what they are asking or wanting to watch? Help them understand what is driving their wants.
- Be intentional about conversations regarding media use in the home. These “7 Traits of Effective Parenting” should help you on your journey.
- Set consistent limits with a “why.” Why do you have limits? Is it because of fear or is it toward a goal of discernment and wisdom? What is considered good, ok or acceptable and what is not. Do your kids share your perspective or do they disagree? Talk it through. Listen carefully for their “why’s” to their own discernment.
- Take ownership. Discuss what it means to have ownership over your mind and what the brain does with what it gets. Our brains are designed to be heavily influenced by what we watch and who we listen to. God tells us to guard our heart because from it flows the springs of life.
- Ponder the “heart.” This is the core of our minds. What is media building into my perceptions and understanding? Is media creating illusions that becomes reality and reality that becomes an illusion? What we consume in our minds truly eventually comes out, much like food.
- Watch together whenever possible. If you choose to allow your kids to watch shows like 13 Reasons Why, watch them together so that you know what they have consumed in their mind. Be present to have conversations about what is brought up by the show.
- Avoid binges. Binge-watching can create moodiness and a “bla” feeling once it’s over. It’s just not good for the brain.
- Read Plugged In reviews about music, video games, books, TV shows and/or movies. This will help you make informed decisions about what you’re going to consume, much like reading a menu as you’re getting ready to consume food.
What has worked for you and your family? What hasn’t? Please consider sharing your perspective in the comments section.
Danny Huerta is vice president of parenting at Focus on the Family