All this fuss about TV shows not suitable for kids

All this fuss about TV shows not suitable for kids

So, is the problem '13 Reasons' or that we don't discuss difficult topics with them?

By Anamika Chaterjee

Published: Fri 16 Jun 2017, 8:08 PM

Last updated: Sat 17 Jun 2017, 6:53 PM

It's been more than two months since 13 Reasons Why released on Netflix and went on to create a poignant debate - is visually aggressive content suitable for mass viewing? Some schools in Canada have banned any discussion on 13 Reasons Why, while some critics are divided on whether the show, with its graphic detail, is an endorsement of suicide. Taking a singular, definite position on the subject is tempting, however, doing
so undermines the ambiguity of the times we live in. Perhaps uncertain times demand uncertain narratives.
Ones that challenge our perspective and compel us to briefly step outside the world as we know it to ask some tough questions, of ourselves, and of those who shape our worldview.
However, in a technology-driven society, it is increasingly becoming difficult to live under a rock. And if you're a teenager, chances are you don't have the option. Technology becomes your window to a very alluring, but also a very difficult world. Watching 13 Reasons Why may not plant suicidal thoughts in your teen's mind, but what if s/he has had similar experiences?
What if they're trying to define themselves by how they are perceived? What if, despite being a doting parent, you're unable to hear their silent shrieks? Perhaps then they might find themselves identifying with a Hannah Baker more than they relate to you. These dichotomies are the reasons why 13 Reasons Why, or any other show on television with a similar subject, is not for passive viewing.
It is at its most poignant when it begs questions, or compels you to have a 'talk'. Or else, it's just a piece of entertainment - flawed but somewhat gratifying.
Don't avoid discussing self-harm and suicide with kids
Sonia Singhal
Psychologist, familyFirst Medical Center

13 Reasons Why is a story about a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind cassette tapes with messages for the people who she believes played a role in her decision. Whether or not your child has watched the show, the important question is how to talk about and address difficult and distressing issues with them. Do not avoid talking about self-harm, suicide and other difficult topics with your child because you think that talking about it will put negative thoughts into their head. It is likely that they have already been exposed to these topics, either voluntarily or indirectly, and they may be confused, upset or struggling to understand their own feelings about them.
Ask your child questions about what their peer group is talking about and what they are hearing being discussed around them. Find out how much they understand and if they have questions that you can answer or could help in getting answers. Encourage them to talk about their thoughts and concerns and to express their feelings. Explore what these issues mean to your child and try to understand how deeply they are impacted by them. Your child may not be personally experiencing emotional distress but they may be close to someone who is struggling and needs help. This can be extremely difficult for a young person to handle and it is important to support your child and to guide them in how to support their friend. Seek professional help and take support from family and friends - it can be overwhelming to manage these situations alone.
Parents, educators and health professionals need to be aware of and knowledgeable about the conversations and concerns that children are having. They need to be approachable and to encourage children to have open and honest dialogues about their thoughts and feelings. They need to create safe and non-judgemental avenues and reassure children that it is okay to reach out for help and guidance. If your child or anyone you know is struggling with severe emotional distress or is at risk of self-harm or suicide, seek help immediately.
Schools have a duty to care for the child and offer support
Andy Wood
Principal, Greenfield Community School (A Taaleem School)

There has been a great deal of discussion in educational circles recently generated by TV series such as 13 Reasons Why. We worry if our children are emotionally safe. One of the paradoxes of our times is that we live in greater comfort, ease and security than ever before and yet our children are increasingly likely to suffer from depression.
Mood swings have been a part of the teenage years. But there is growing research that the young suffer more than ever from depression, despondency and hopelessness.
Teachers and leaders at schools are often the first people to notice that a young person's behaviour and emotions are changing, and are called upon to help. We are not talking about the odd bad day, but serious clinical depression in some cases. They have a duty to care and identify the problem and call for support for the child: ignoring the problem never makes it go away. The classroom teacher will usually refer the student to the school counsellor, a crucial layer of support.
Greenfield Community School has given parents information on how to communicate effectively with their teenagers. Parents are taught to develop and use listening skills, and be open and non- judgemental in conversations with their children.
We recently designed a mindfulness programme aimed at de-stressing students: it's included in the school day and a room is dedicated for this programme. Many schools have similar initiatives. Important things happen during school hours that aren't part of the curriculum. It's about less technology, more exercise, laughter, friendship and sunshine.
A generation ago, children played in the park, rode bicycles everywhere and enjoyed a level of freedom we don't see today. Smartphones have replaced bicycles and football in the street with friends, and our children are no happier. As parents, we need the courage to give them some of that old freedom back.

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