Recently Netflix issued warnings related to their movie “Bird Box”. In this thriller, people wear blindfolds outdoors to avoid seeing evil forces. 

The movie “inspired” people to post videos of themselves going around blindfolded. Some have been injured during these stunts, hence the warnings not to emulate the movie.

 Netflix acted responsibly in this instance. What’s disturbing is that they haven’t shown as much concern about teen copycat suicides following the first season of their series “13 Reasons Why”. Season One focuses on the suicide of Hannah Baker, shown graphically on screen. She leaves cassette tapes for 13 people, detailing why she considers them responsible for her death. Episodes depict drug use, graphic sex and violence. 

 Netflix added warnings only at the insistence of mental health professionals, and continues to disparage critics of the violent show. Series creators insist graphically portraying reality will warn teens how suicide hurts those left behind. 

 I freely admit I haven’t watched “13 Reasons” and won’t unless there’s a significant reason to do so. My husband’s family dealt with a suicide so I understand the emotional trauma. And it’s not necessary to throw myself into a pile of garbage to know I don‘t want to become filthy. 

 My husband tells this anecdote regarding truth: Bank tellers are taught to recognize counterfeit bills, not by studying counterfeits, but by learning so much about real money that they easily recognize a fake. 

 Teens don’t always recognize something is false or unhealthy unless also exposed to positive aspects of the issue. That’s the main problem with “13 Reasons”: no hope is offered. All the characters’ lives are steeped in violence, leading impressionable viewers to believe that’s normal, even o.k. No one leads a peaceful life. No one is shown receiving help. The closest Netflix comes to hope is suicide helpline information following each episode.

 Netflix provides no solution to the increased moral dilemmas, graphic language and dating violence faced by today’s teens. But there is still good in the world, provided by both modern technology and timeless human love. The same internet that facilitates cyber bullying also provides hope-filled opportunities. Twelve California girls from low income families had never done computer coding, sewing or 3-D printing, but invented and built a prototype of a solar-powered tent for the homeless using information found online. A 17-year old boy was honored by President Obama for designing an inexpensive 3-D printed prosthetic arm. The young man now works for NASA.

 If “13 Reasons Why” was only intended to help teens, it could have ended after one season. But a second season was produced, with less connection to suicide. It focuses more on teen assault, including a beating and gang rape in a boys’ locker room. 

 Netflix denies any real life negative influences from “13 Reasons”. But six months after Season Two’s release, five members of a Damascus, Maryland, JV football team were charged with assaulting four other teens. The violent attack mimicked the locker room assault on the show.

 An Ohio State University study found teens more likely to commit violent acts if friends do the same. This holds true even if confessions of such acts (true or fabricated) are on social media. 

 Internet searches about suicide increased 19% in the three weeks following the “13 Reasons” debut. A school librarian’s online posting reported that the day after Season One’s release, students at her school began asking about suicide and requesting the book the series is based on.

 A young Peruvian man committed suicide and left recordings similar to the series. A 14-year old Alabama girl left letters to seven people when she killed herself in a bathtub like fictional Hannah Baker. 

 Teens may not totally comprehend the difference between television and reality. Four Florida teens formed a suicide pact, then mocked one girl for showing fear. 

So she sent them a live stream of her cutting herself. The video shows her crying, “It’s taking too long . . . It’s not like in “13 Reasons”.” (One boy receiving the video called 9-1-1 and the girl was saved.)

 Until Netflix acts more responsibly, those with tweens and teens must exercise vigilance, possibly cancelling Netflix accounts or using parental controls to limit internet access. 

If you’ve never heard of “13 Reasons”, don’t assume your teen hasn’t. Before one documented suicide, the girl watched the series without her parents’ knowledge. This show is poison. Our teens deserve less sensationalized discussions that include positive, hopeful alternatives.

Suzan Loda resides in Winnemucca. She can be reached at suzan-uncommonsense