Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why—the controversial TV series that follows the aftermath of a troubled high school student’s suicide—has arrived on Netflix, and many reviewers have characterized it as even darker than Season 1. While this Mobilize article is in no way an endorsement of the series, no Gospel Advancing youth leader should ignore the buzz surrounding this teen culture phenomenon.
Here are 13 reasons why you shouldn’t ignore the conversations teenagers are having about the dark, difficult topics addressed in 13 Reasons Why.
- Teenagers are talking about the series with each other…whether they’ve actually seen it or not, and whether the adults around them approve of it or not.
- Instead of letting popular cultural shape your students’ thinking on these difficult topics, the buzz around 13 Reasons Why gives you a timely opportunity to provide them a biblical perspective on why there is darkness, evil, pain and broken relationships in the world and to explain how the light of Jesus can come in and flood those dark places with light.
- Bullying, depression, self-harm and sexual harassment and assault are realities of adolescence life today. A recently released Northwestern University study reported that 80 percent of adolescent and young-adult viewers of Season 1 agreed that people their age deal with the kinds of issues addressed in 13 Reasons Why.
- Approximately two million cases of self-injury are reported annually in the United States. Ninety percent of people who engage in self harm begin during their teen or pre-adolescent years (Source).
- Seventy percent of students report seeing frequent bullying online, yet only one in ten victims will inform a parent or trusted adult that they’ve been the subject of cyberbullying (Source).
- Silence is not a solution.
- Virtually every teenager knows someone who has struggled with one or more of the difficult topics addressed in the series, yet we often leave them to navigate this difficult terrain without the help of a trusted adult. When you broach these subjects with your students, you’re giving them permission to open up to an adult about these difficult topics.
- There are potentially serious consequences if your students don’t know how to respond when they or a friend feel pressured to sext. They need you to speak up about this behavior and make them fully aware of the dangers, heartache and life-long ramifications that can come from what might seem to them like the harmless sharing of photos.
- Teenagers need to more fully comprehend how their words and actions can impact others—both positively and negatively. Kind words, apologies and forgiveness are not just “nice words” found in the Bible that we give lip service to, they are critical components of healthy relationships.
- Teenagers need to know what to say to a friend who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
Try This! ❯
Start a candid conversation with your students this week about depression and suicide by asking this question: “What would you say to a friend who you thought might be depressed or suicidal?”
Ask: “Why are you feeling down? Help me understand how you’re feeling? How can I help? Are you thinking of suicide?”
Encourage: “Although you’re feeling these things…God has a plan for you. Your life matters. There are options out there, we just have to find them and I’ll help you.”
Find: “We’re going to go together and find you some help. Let’s find a trusted adult you can talk to on a deeper level—someone trained to help.”
- Teenagers desperately need the hope of the gospel message.
- Christian teenagers need to know how to share the hope of the gospel message with their friends.
- There’s no Christian teen character written into the storyline of 13 Reasons Why. Challenge your students to imagine how a teen who is motivated and equipped to share the light and love of Jesus in the midst of darkness and despair can change the trajectory of someone else’s life.
Whether your students have watched this controversial Netflix series or not, why not use it to start (or continue) candid, honest discussion about these difficult topics and shine some biblical truth into the darkness?
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