When my daughter, Stella, was in fifth grade, a popular book among the girls in her class was “The Fault in our Stars.”
Stella was next on the list to check it out of the teacher’s personal library when she mentioned the book to us.
I wasn’t familiar with the title, but my husband, a media specialist at an elementary school, had some questions. After a little research, we realized the book, a young adult novel recommended for ages 14 and older, dealt with some mature themes — dying and sexuality specifically. We thought she wasn’t quite ready.
That led to a family talk about why it would be better to wait a little while before reading the book.
A few years later, a TV show, “13 Reasons Why,” which depicts a teen girl killing herself, debuted on Netflix. Once again, the kids at school were talking about the show, and once again Stella was interested. Only this time, she didn’t mention it to us, and my husband and I were clueless.
She was three episodes into the series when she realized the dark content of the show was affecting her emotional health. Coping with the depressing thoughts sparked by just three episodes was a long painful process for Stella, and she was not the only viewer who experienced those feelings.
An analysis of suicide data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a significant jump in youth suicides following the release of the show — a 19-year high in suicides, researchers found. At least one Alabama teen modeled her own suicide after the depiction in the show.
Reporting on that precious girl’s death, on those statistics, I couldn’t help but wonder: If TAB had reviewed the show before it came out, before our kids had the chance to watch it, could we have made a difference? Could lives have been saved if more parents knew what their kids were watching and had an opportunity to talk about it before they watched?
On a monthly basis, TAB reviews movies and TV shows. Sometimes these are faith-based productions, but not always.
We often hear from readers who feel like we should only review faith-based productions, and we understand that position.
As one reader recently put it, “children certainly don’t need to have seeds planted in their young minds which may be hard, if not impossible, to uproot.”
But that statement gets to the heart of why we DO need to review such films — to help parents know what to watch for, to help them blow those seeds away, at least for a little while longer.
Children and teens are prolific consumers of video. The next time you’re in a crowd of families, look around. See how many toddlers are watching a phone.
Most of us have YouTube on our phones and at least one subscription to a streaming video service in our homes. Parental controls vary from service to service, and even those are no guarantee young viewers won’t run into questionable content. Our recent review of Netflix’s new animated children’s film “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” reveals how quickly — and how subtly — a seed can be planted.
And it is with that in mind that we review films and TV shows that kids and their friends will be talking about. Forewarned is forearmed, the old saying goes, and our goal is to equip parents, grandparents and other caregivers, to help them “examine everything [and] hold firmly to that which is good [and] abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22–23).
As the villain Ursula in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” says: “Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?” How right she is.
And because there are so many choices in today’s media landscape, we hope in some small way TAB is helping provide clarity, one media review at a time.