16 May 2018
The Chief Censor David Shanks warns parents and caregivers of vulnerable children and teenagers to be prepared for the release of Netflix’s Season 2 release of 13 Reasons Why scheduled to screen this week on Friday, May 18, at 7pm.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification consulted with the Mental Health Foundation in classifying 13 Reasons Why: Season 2 as RP18 with a warning that it contains rape, suicide themes, drug use, and bullying.
“There is a strong focus on rape and suicide in Season 2, as there was in Season 1. We have told Netflix it is really important to warn NZ audiences about that,” says David.
“Rape is an ugly word for an ugly act. But young New Zealanders have told us that if a series contains rape – they want to know beforehand.”
An RP18 classification means that someone under 18 must be supervised by a parent or guardian when viewing the series. A guardian is considered to be a responsible adult (18 years and over), for example a family member or teacher who can provide guidance.
“This classification allows young people to access it in a similar fashion to the first season, while requiring the support from an adult they need to stay safe and to process the challenging topics in the series,” David explains.
Netflix is required to clearly display the classification and warning.
“If a child you care for is planning to watch the show, you should sit down and watch it with them – if not together then at least around the same time. That way you can at least try to have informed and constructive discussions with them about the content,” says David.
For parents and caregivers who don’t have time to watch the entire series, the Classification Office and Mental Health Foundation have produced an episode-by-episode guide with synopses of problematic content, and conversation starters to have with teens. This will be available on both organisations’ websites from 7pm on Friday night.
David says the Classification Office has no problem with content being produced for young people that addresses issues in a realistic way.
“But what we are concerned with is whether this material is actually realistic, and delivered in a safe and responsible manner. Many young people will watch 13 Reasons Why: Season 2 and not be negatively influenced by it – in some cases it could have value in starting conversations about real issues for teens.
“Approximately one in five young New Zealanders will have experienced a mental health problem in the last year. One in three girls will be subject to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16, and approximately one in seven boys.
“This is the audience we are worried about – individuals who have been personally affected by the issues in the series. Suicide bereavement and sexual assault are both recognised risk factors for suicide. Young viewers in a heightened state of distress will be more vulnerable to the impact of the show – they can be put at risk by viewing it.
“This is a series that is about teens, it’s been made for teens, and it’s marketed very strongly and effectively at teens. And we know that the majority of teenagers in this country have watched Season 1. Season 2 has a similar overall feel to Season 1 and it raises more issues that are relevant to teens.
“Binge-watching is a real concern. We know there are all kinds of media impacts on our teenagers – and younger kids. Many will be re-watching Season 1 or watching it for the first time, and then following on to watch Season 2. This is a risk.
“The current picture about what our kids can be exposed to online is grim. We need to get that message across to parents that they need to help young people with this sort of content.”
To further assist parents, the Office of Film and Literature Classification has also produced a helpful parent guide, Challenging Media Content: Talking with young people about what they’re watching and videos featuring youth health advocate, Dr Sue Bagshaw with advice on how to talk to young people about a range of topics, including suicide and bullying.
A full suite of resources is also available at www.mentalhealth.org.nz/13ReasonsWhy.
NOTE TO MEDIA: The Classification Office advises media that when reporting on the show they should remain mindful of vulnerable people who may need support and advice. Please do not air or play graphic scenes from the show. Please adapt helplines to encompass the scope of the topics explored in 13 Reasons Why.
You can call a helpline at an time, they're free and confidential.