If you’re a parent and you’ve got a Netflix subscription, I would advise extreme caution about letting your kids watch “13 Reasons Why.”
Unlike some advocacy groups, I’m not in favor of banning the show. Or of forcing Netflix to remove it from the lineup.
Call me crazy, but I think people should make decisions for themselves. If you pay for a Netflix subscription, what right does anyone — let alone an advocacy group with a history of questionable ethics — have to censor what you can watch? These are not public airwaves.
I’m loath to name the group and give it publicity, but … the Parents Television Council frequently misrepresents TV content, floods the Federal Communications Commission with bogus complaints and falsely claimed World Wrestling Entertainment was responsible for the deaths of four children (and was forced to pay $3.5 million when the WWE sued).
Earlier this week, the PTC directly blamed Netflix for several deaths by suicide.
To be clear, this is not a defense of the show. The series centers on a 17-year-old who killed herself and left tapes explaining why — blaming enemies and friends. There are depictions of rape, sexual assault and drug abuse. If you’re looking to be entertained, look somewhere else.
The series has severe critics and ardent defenders. Does depicting suicide lead young, troubled, impressionable viewers to mimic the behavior? Or does it bring the issue to the forefront and help prevent suicides?
There is no lack of experts arguing both sides.
Should your kids watch “13 Reasons Why”? That’s a decision you have to make.
Netflix rates the show TV-MA — not for anyone under 17 — but there is no hard-and-fast rule, because not all 7-year-olds or all 17-year-olds are the same. You know your kids. You decide.
You should watch the show yourself first. And if you decide to let your kids see it, you should watch it with them. You should discuss what happens. It can be an opening to let them know you’re there for them. It can, as some have argued, open a line of communication. It can even be a lifeline.
Yes, that requires time and effort. But nobody ever said parenting would be easy. Monitoring and regulating what your kids watch is part of the job.
Parents shouldn’t delegate that responsibility to Netflix or any other TV outlet. And, no matter how much noise they make, advocacy groups should never be allowed to ban anything.
If they want to advise parents about TV shows, that’s fine. You don’t have to listen to them.
Or to me, for that matter.
Not that Netflix is caving to outside pressure. It has just ordered a third season of “13 Reasons Why,” which will stream in 2019.