Some girls at youth group were talking about a new Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why. I decided to watch it so I could get in on the conversation because it was deep. If you don’t know, the show, based off a novel, is set around a group of high schoolers. One of them is a girl who commits suicide and leaves cassette tapes to her peers on which she recorded herself explaining the reasons why she ended her life. When I first started the series, I cringed at the thought of teens watching it; there are graphic scenes of sex, homosexuality, bullying, rape and suicide, but I quickly remembered that this is reality for some of them. Yes, you heard that right! This is some of their reality, so a few episodes in, I became glad that the show is a hot topic, and that these issues are being discussed.
Now I’m not here to add to the online debate about the controversial nature of the show, I simply want to talk about a few of these issues, because as a parent and a youth leader I don’t think there has been enough education and dialogue on them – and I get it! They are scary and uncomfortable topics! But unless you experienced any of them as a teen, I believe many adults are in the dark. So let’s talk!
Cyberbullying. We know about bullying, but cyberbullying is like bullying on crack! I didn’t grow up with the internet at home or in my pocket like kids do now, and PEOPLE, I want you to know that cyberbullying has huge consequences! We need to be aware of what our children are doing on their phones, tablets and computers and educate them on the consequences of bullying. It could literally save their life.
Do your children understand what cyberbullying is and what the consequences are? If you aren’t sure, I encourage you to ask them and start the conversation. You can find loads of information on the internet to help you. Do your kids know the dangers of texting a ‘pic?’
Rape. This is about to get real… and personal for me. There are two rape scenes. The first is of a girl who was drunk and the offender was her boyfriend’s friend. The second is a forceful rape and by a peer. The first type of rape happened to me when I was sixteen. I was blacked out, came to for a few seconds in the middle of it and then woke up on the floor with no pants on. He was a friend I had a crush on and I thought what happened meant he liked me. That’s how ignorant I was! He told everyone the next day that WE had had sex. That’s how ignorant he was. Maybe I’ll go into more detail one day about what that emotionally did to me, but for now, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize I was a victim until I hit my 30’s. Simple lack of education. When I think of all that ignorance I want to barf, but it also made me educate my kids and I hope it makes you do the same because this type of rape is happening all the time.
Do your kids know you can blackout if you drink too much? Do they know that if consent can’t be given, it’s rape? Do they know rape can be non-violent? Do they understand the consequences of date rape? Do your kids know how to go to an adult and or police before showering?
Suicide. This one is so tough. Like many places in the country, we have had teen suicides here in the Temecula Valley, two that I know of this school year. A simple internet search revealed that suicide is the second leading cause of death of people ages 10 to 24. Second leading cause? Age TEN? And four out of five teenage suicide attempts exhibited clear warning signs. The series shows the parents’ grief and guilt and it is hard to watch. They yearn to know why their daughter chose to take her life, desire to make someone responsible and obsess about why they didn’t notice something was wrong.
Do your kids have someone they trust to talk to? (I recommend Youth Group!) Do they understand that it’s okay to not feel okay? Do you know the warning signs? You can educate yourself here: http://jasonfoundation.com
Friends! Let us be as the Proverbs 31 woman when she asked, “What are you doing my son?” and inquire into the lives of our children and educate them of the dangers of the world as she did in the verses following. Let us encourage each other as parents, love each other’s children and fill their minds with the truth of who they are in Christ. Let us all provide safe places for our kids to discuss their problems, they are so important.
An excellent documentary on cyberbullying, rape-culture, and suicide is Audrie and Daisy. The official trailer can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29Dr4ChJUBc