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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,913
April 18, 2018
(first of a two-part series)
Netflix Is Killing Teenagers
By Mike McManus

AFA Journal, a monthly magazine of the American Family Association, reports evidence that a Netflix TV series called 13 Reasons Why - prompted Anna Bright, aged 14, to kill herself. Other teenagers who binged on the series - have also committed suicide: such as Bella Herndon and Priscilla Chiu, both 15-year-olds.

13 Reasons Why (13 RW) was popular among Anna's friends. Less than a month after its March, 2017 release, the series quickly became Nexflix's most tweeted show with 11 million tweets. The first season of the series is based on a young adult novel written by Jay Asher. Both the novel and the series revolve around the suicide of teenager Hannah Baker who leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that blame 13 different people as the reason she ended her life.

The AFA Journal reports, "The tapes are her means of revenge, her power over them after death."

The series is rated TV-MA for mature audiences only. It is full of excessive drug and alcohol use by high school students, homosexuality, "empty friendships, bullying and violent graphic sex including two rape scenes," one of which is "full-on, raw, very real and gruesome" - followed by a "three-minute depiction of a teenage girl committing suicide."

Yet teens are drawn to it - and "controlled by its haunted darkness," AFA reports.

The show's creative team, which included Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Yorkey and superstar Selena Gomez, claim that 13 RW is "positive in purpose, bringing an anti-bullying message and an awareness of mental illness and teen suicide."

However, statistics suggest otherwise. The JAMA Internal Medicine cited a study that "Internet searches about suicide were significantly higher than expected, within three weeks after the release of 13 RW.

The Washington Post reports "Internet searches about suicide were significantly higher than expected" within three weeks after the release of 13 Reasons Why.

Overall, online suicide queries increased by 19% during the first 19 days after the release of 13 RW. San Diego State University Public Health Professor John Ayers states: "Past studies have validated that Internet searches mirror real world suicide rates, so suicide rates have likely gone up as a result of this program," reports the AFA Journal.

The magazine has produced a short online video that shows the power of media as told through the death of Anna. I urge readers to watch the video at http://afa.net/Netflix.

Psychiatrist Dr. Fadi Haddad asserts that the videos "distort the realities of teen suicide and depression," which prompts some to copycat suicide attempts that are often fatal. He told TIME magazine: "Some of my colleagues say they see kids now saying, 'I told my mother I'm going to be Hannah Baker,' the young woman who killed herself in the Netflix series.

Anna was a remarkably successful teenager. She was a self-taught artist, musician, writer, photographer and vocalist. She was also a beauty queen, a cheerleader, a scholar and a friend to those who needed befriending."

Why would such a successful girl even consider suicide?

Apparently on the inside she was fighting a deep, dark battle of which her parents had no idea and to which her peers paid little attention.

After watching 13 RW, Anna and her friends joked about suicide. Anna even told her friends in the lunchroom one day that she was going to kill herself. "No one took it seriously because it fit right in with the light-hearted conversations about the show," the magazine reported.

"Young people became desensitized to the content in the show, especially when they binge watch it. When they immerse themselves in it for 13 hours straight, it becomes their everyday reality, the norm."

AFA Journal reports, "The influence of media is powerful, especially when it feeds the innate sin in one's heart."

Anna left behind a journal that included seven letters written to specific people. In the film, Hannah left behind a set of recordings addressed to 13 perceived enemies.

On the day of their deaths, both Hannah and Anna came home from school, put things in order, changed into comfortable clothes before ending their lives in a bathtub of water. Hannah used a razor blade while Anna shot herself in the head.

To its credit, the American Family Association has asked its readers to sign a demand that Netflix NOT release a second similar series that has already been produced.

By Wednesday, 54,137 people had signed the petition.

However, Netflix has not responded. That is outrageous.

Parents must take two important steps. First, ask your teens if they have been watching the Netflix series. Second, get rid of - or lock up - any guns in the home!

___________________________________

Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

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