TV shows do more than entertain, teach teens

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot lately about watching TV. Maybe that’s because, as a parent, that’s how you decompress at the end of the day. The kids are finally fed and asleep and it’s just time to watch some Netflix and calm down a bit. But, in doing that, you come across some interesting shows. I recently did just that with the series, “13 Reasons Why.”

If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s a show that’s garnering a lot of attention. It focuses on a fictional teenager named Hannah who commits suicide, but not before sending 13 audiotapes to people she believes somehow had a hand in her decision to take her own life. It’s a tragic story and it’s told very well. But, despite it’s billing as a great show, I really had a hard time getting into it. That’s probably because I’m not a teenager and don’t really relate.

What I do relate to, however, is the fact that people have problems. We’re a flawed group. None of us can escape that. The show, no matter how much critical acclaim it has gotten, has also become controversial. The question has been asked: Does it glorify suicide? Does it give depressed teenagers ideas they otherwise wouldn’t have had? I say it doesn’t; it serves a purpose.

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When I was a kid, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I was big fan of “Beverly Hills 90210.” My parents didn’t like me watching it because it included teenagers having sex, doing drugs, facing eating disorders and a mountain of other hot-button topics. But, what my parents failed to see was that the show was depicting teens dealing with those issues and overcoming them. It wasn’t glorifying the problems, it was illustrating how even the toughest of issues can be surmounted. And that’s what I think is happening with this new Netflix show.

Here’s the deal: We all know teens deal with temptation. They deal with the pressure to have sex, do drugs, skip school and engage in all kinds of behavior we as parents are terrified of. Unfortunately, dealing with depression, bullying and thoughts of harming yourself are as prevalent in teens as it is with adults. So, should we ignore that? Should we act like it doesn’t exist?

I have two young children and I am so thankful their biggest problems in life right now are having to go to bed at 8 p.m. and whether or not their favorite shows are on TV. But, one day, they will be teenagers too, and things will get more complicated. I know that. I also know that, while I never dealt with depression or suicidal thoughts at that age, every person is different. I pray my kids never feel that way, but if they do, I hope there is something out there for them to make them understand they aren’t alone.

I don’t know about you, but I know I didn’t always confide in my parents when I was having problems at that age. Thank God for shows that let our kids know it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to feel odd and have strange feelings. This world is a beautiful, strange, wonderful, messed up place. And with the rise of social media, our kids are dealing with a level of pressure we never had to cope with. So, good for shows like “90210” and “13 Reasons Why.” The world can be tough. You never really know what’s going through someone’s head or what they are dealing with personally. Knowing you’re not alone can make all the difference in the world.