The media’s influence on young minds



Opinion Writer Abigail Bennethum explains her concerns with the popular Netflix Original Series Thirteen Reasons Why.


In 2017, the first season of “Thirteen Reasons Why” came out. Since then, not only has there been more discussion about mental health, but there also has been tons of backlash for the airing of certain controversial scenes throughout the series. Being an avid watcher throughout the years and finishing up the most recent season, I have concluded one pretty solid opinion about the series: not only is it misleading, but it is extremely graphic and glorifies mental health issues.

Before I get into my reasoning, I want to mention that mental health, depression and the issues discussed on the show are very serious and should be talked about. Nevertheless, I think they went about producing the content in the wrong way, and here’s why.

My first issue with the show is the lack of care for the impressionable audiences. Kids from the ages of 12-18 are reading the novel, which means they are most likely watching the show. The minds of 12-18-year-olds are still developing and very susceptible, often looking for validation in any way they can. Seeing a show on Netflix demonstrating ways to get back at people may influence some adolescents to try something similar just because it was shown to grab a large amount of people’s attention. Some of the articles I came across called it an “Adolescent Fantasy.”

The month after the first season aired, reports of teen suicide jumped by 30%. These facts show the influential status that these shows have on kids. Not just the original plot of the story, but in addition to the extremely graphic scenes throughout the series, not to mention no matter what age you may be, you will feel sick to your stomach watching this content.

Some might say that kids need to see the harsh reality of these issues, however, showing these scenes portraying a realistic high school situation shouldn’t be the way to inform and educate today’s adolescents.

My second issue with this show ties on to the aforementioned issue of what is really “relatable high school life.” Even though I grew up in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, I am sure that covering up murders and an underground clubhouse for coercive sex is not entirely “relatable.” Netflix wants to make more revenue to keep 13RY airing, producers have made it widely unrealistic and skewing away from the main point they were trying to express with Hannah’s story. Some may rebuttal with the snowball effect of how suicide or other issues can grow and form into a bigger problem, however suicide shouldn’t be taken into consideration either way.

Something else I have noticed during the series is the lack of parental attention. The ages of students in 13RY are 16-18 years old, dealing with the death of a student they were all tied to in some way, the inattentiveness of these parents is something I have never seen before. Tiptoeing around their kids, not wanted to “invade their personal space” is also something that is such an incredibly skewed perception that the producers have exemplified in such a misleading way. Overall, seeing this type of content on today’s television and how one may perceive the typical high school life simply baffles me.

In the end, I would like to give them some credit because during the series they did show fundamental ideals for today’s adolescents, for example, women’s empowerment, how to stand up for one’s self, getting a conversation started about controversial topics in today’s society that needed to be brought to light and a brief mention of how “there are always more reasons why not,” which is true, however, should’ve been mentioned more.

Nonetheless, I press the question, is it enough? Does the good of this show outweigh all of the negative material during this series? Was there more harm done than good? I believe it didn’t help the epidemic of suicides and mental health issues we are facing today. In all, with reason, I believe that the content of this show only complicated and worsened the societal issues this world’s impressionable youth are facing.