'13 Reasons Why': New study proves controversial series encourages positive teen behaviors

Wendy Geller
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why is a series that not only tackles tough issues, but it also has an impact on how its viewers — especially teens viewers and their parents — discuss them.

Today, Netflix shared the results of a study it commissioned with Northwestern University’s Center on Media and Human Development to quantify the influence of the first season of the series, which explores the reasons why teen Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) commits suicide, had on its viewers.

What the study reveals is striking — and encouraging. Here are some of the key findings, as listed in the announcement:

  • Nearly three-quarters of teen and young adult viewers reported that they tried to be more considerate about how they treated others after watching the show.

  • More than half of teen viewers reached out to apologize to someone for how they had treated them; and more than two-thirds were more motivated to help someone who was depressed, bullied or sexually assaulted.

  • Nearly three-quarters of teen and young adult viewers said the show made them feel more comfortable processing tough topics.

  • More than two-thirds of parents reported that watching the show prompted them to communicate with their children about difficult topics; 71% of teens and young adults we inspired to discuss the show and related issues with their parents.

From the beginning, because the series broaches uncomfortable topics, we believed it had the potential to be a powerful agent for change,” Netflix VP of Original Series Brian Wright says in a company blog post. “Soon after the season 1 launch, we saw global conversation explode on the controversial topics covered by the series and understood we had a responsibility to support these important discussions.”

The full results of the study — which surveyed 5,400 adolescents, young adults, and parents of adolescents from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil between November 2017 and January 2018 — can be explored here. Netflix has added informational resources for processing difficult or controversial issues, such as suicide, depression, sexual assault, and substance abuse, and includes a viewing guide, at 13reasonswhy.info.

A special video featuring the cast urging viewers to heed the sensitive nature of the show has also been released and can be viewed above.

13 Reasons Why premiered last year, and even though it is largely critically acclaimed (and earned star Langford a Golden Globe nomination), its focus on mature topics has drawn controversy, including concern and criticism from parents and mental health professionals for its graphic matter. 

Participating in Yahoo Entertainment’s ongoing Why Teen TV Matters series, 13 Reasons Why showrunner Brian Yorkey recently shared his hope for the future of the genre: “I would love to see more shows that speak honestly and personally and unflinchingly to some of the difficult things teens face on a daily basis, and not in a way necessarily that seeks to educate adults, but in a way that seeks to honor the experience of teenagers and to let them know that — as much as they may be feeling they’re the only kid going through — they’re really not alone.”

Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix. Season 2 will premiere in 2018.

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