I am a child and adolescent psychologist from Panama. As a psychologist, I found Netflix’s original series 13 Reasons Why to be engaging, instructive, well written, and so sensitive to the issues that most teenagers and young adults are facing nowadays. The program — based on the YA novel by Jay Asher — so honestly, and painfully, demonstrates the effects of bullying, sexual assault, and more. These are some of the lessons I think that viewers can (and should) take from the series. Parents, teachers, counselors, and friends — feel free to use this as a guide to spark conversations with teenagers and young adults in your life.
Trigger warning: Mentions of sexual assault, harassment, bullying, suicidal thoughts, and suicide
Tape 1, Side A:
1Do not engage with cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is more than just taking a picture or a video — participating in the conversation and continuing to shame the victim is still part of cyber bullying. If you share the picture, forward it, comment on it, and/or participate in conversations about said picture — you’re contributing to cyber bullying. When you go into a public social media profile and comment negatively on this person’s body, their choice of clothing, their physical appearance — you’re contributing to cyber bullying. What can you do to stop it? Don’t engage. Don’t participate in the conversation.
Tape 1, Side B:
2Practice in-person assertiveness.
Rumors are just that: rumors. They are a story told by someone who passed it onto another person, who then shared it with another person, and so on. You don’t know if a rumor is true or not. You can only get to the truth when you talk to the source. But most importantly, you need to be assertive when you search for answers. When you communicate assertively, you share your ideas in a direct and clear form — without being aggressive – in person, one on one, or on a phone call. Absolutely NO text messages where things can be misunderstood or ignored.
Tape 2, Side A:
3Respect women; don’t body-shame them.
It is never okay to comment on other people’s bodies, let alone to comment and publicly mock women’s bodies. As women, we already feel so much societal pressure and go through so many struggles with our body image. When we have to deal with other people putting us in direct competition with each other based on our body traits, things become even more unbearable. We are not objects that can be placed in direct comparison to one another. The minute you stop engaging in these practices is when you start to respect women and their bodies.
Tape 2, Side B:
4Ask for permission before posting about friends on social media.
In today’s world, where social media has gained so much momentum and we have the freedom to post whatever thought crosses our mind, it is important to take a step back. Ask people for permission when posting about them. This is especially important if you’re into photography — ask for permission when taking or posting pictures of other people.
Tape 3, Side A:
5It will get better.
It’s never easy to express your sexuality, especially if your orientation is different from what society or family imposes as the norm. Know that you’re not alone, and you’re living in an era where everyday, people are fighting for you and your rights. Remember this. Human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation, are fighting for you. You’re not alone and it will get better.
Tape 3, Side B:
6Do not objectify women.
We are not an object to add value to your reputation. We are not an accessory to make you a bonafide stud. We are not a prize that can be won. We are human beings. We deserve respect. We can all — men, women, and every gender — work to stop the objectification of women.