Netflix Must Do More to Protect Children from Explicit Content in 13 Reasons Why

Written by PTC | Published April 4, 2018

13 The PTC commends Netflix for adding some viewer protections for its second season of 13 Reasons Why. But Netflix must do more to protect children from the demonstrably harmful, graphic content. “The impact of season one of 13 Reasons Why, which culminated with a graphic suicide scene of a high school-aged character, was powerful and intense: millions of children watched; the Google search term for how to commit suicide spiked 26 percent; and there were news reports of children literally taking their own lives after the series was released,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “We may never know the full extent of how grave the influence was, but we do know it was enough for Netflix to commission a research report on how the show has impacted the lives of its viewers – especially young viewers – in positive ways. The report was produced by the prestigious Northwestern University School of Communication, and was led by the respected scholar, Dr. Ellen Wartella, whose work in the field of violent media’s impact on children is highly regarded. The report proved just how powerfully the program impacted its viewers, and how much stronger the emotional connection to the series’ characters was for children aged 13-18 than for young adults or adults – likely one reason Netflix added some viewer protections for its upcoming season of the series. “Netflix has demonstrated that it now has full knowledge of this program’s potential effect – especially on young viewers, and they cannot now feign ignorance should tragedy strike. Netflix is readily available for children to watch via TV, phones, and other devices, and the content can be potentially harmful to viewers. “Last August, a PTC study of streaming services found that children have easy access to adult content, in part, because the parental controls are lax or non-existent. We published a number of recommendations to improve streaming services’ effectiveness to protect innocent eyes from explicit material. Gratefully, a portion of our recommendations have been adopted by Netflix; but the company needs to do more. “First, we call on Netflix to refrain from releasing season two of 13 Reasons Why until experts in the scientific community have determined it to be safe for consumption by an audience that is comprised heavily of minor children. When a film or TV series centers entirely on high school-aged children for its storytelling, it is high school and junior high school children who watch and who feel most emotionally-connected to the characters. Grown-ups don't put themselves into the position of high schoolers; but other children do. “Second, we call on Netflix to implement a pricing structure similar to Sirius/XM Satellite radio that allows subscribers – and especially parents – to opt out of adult or explicit programming in exchange for a reduction in the subscription price. “Third, we call on Netflix to work constructively and proactively with filtering service providers, like VidAngel, which allow consumers the ability to filter explicit content from the entertainment they stream inside their homes. “Fourth, we call on Netflix to use its platform as a positive resource for those who are at greatest risk from consuming this content of this program. For instance, the rapper Logic’s song called 1-800-273-8255 is credited with a sharp increase in the prevention of suicide. “And lastly, we call on Netflix to participate in a national symposium to develop and identify effective protective measures for children and families. Congress passed the Child Safe Viewing Act almost a decade ago, and industry representatives need to help deliver real solutions, rather than seek cover from its intended reach. “Parents may believe that Netflix is ‘safer’ for their families than other forms of entertainment, but the reality is that it is not. Parents need to be aware of 13 Reasons Why, and this insidious digital media culture that is engulfing our children and teens,” Winter concluded.

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