13 Reasons Why

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
13 Reasons Why TV Poster Image
Disturbing book adaptation sheds light on teen suicide.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 146 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 251 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

A mixed bag. On one hand, brings to light the complexities of teen relationships and pressure and the extreme consequences of feeling isolated. On the other, it does so through the rather vindictive behavior of a teen who's tormenting her peers with guilt after her death and the supposition that teen life is rife with oppression. Ultimately message is one of warning -- for teens to deal with their problems in constructive ways and for adults to stay in touch with their kids' activities and emotional health. The strong bond between Clay's friend group after Hannah's death only gets stronger, and there are many moments of bravery and compassion. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Clay's sensitivity and concern for Hannah is evident in how he's racked with guilt over the possibility of having contributed to her psychological struggles. Parents are involved in their teens' activities and monitor their whereabouts, but even so, teens often push boundaries and break family rules. Some of Hannah's peers behave in ways that are cruel and bullying, others learn compassion over time, and yet others are angry or abusive. Everyone is struggling. 

Violence

Revolves around a main character's suicide, which is shown in detail as she slits her wrists in a bathtub and her parents discover the body. It also contains graphic rape scenes involving high school students; no nudity, but panties are shown being forcibly removed, etc. A teen thrown over a toilet is brutally raped from behind with a mop; we see his face in agony. A number of students are seen with guns in the second season; one is stockpiling for a potential school shooting. 

Sex

Some moments of teen sexuality, including masturbation and some make-out scenes. One explicit scene of two teens having sex; lots of thrusting but no nudity. A teen shares a photo he took up a girl's skirt showing her underwear. A character keeps trying to have sex but has difficulties due to his emotional state.  

Language

Very frequent cursing including "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "a--holes," and "sucks." Name-calling such as "idiot."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink at parties with no noticeable consequences. A character is a heroin addict; we see him with paraphernalia and obviously high. Later he detoxes with the help of his friends. Clay's friend group does Molly together.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 13 Reasons Why is an intense, dark Netflix drama based on the popular young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The first season explores the motivations that led Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a troubled teen, to die by suicide. We hear about the bullying, sexual assault, and other traumatic events in her life. Messages about compassion, empathy, and not taking others for granted are clear, but the fact that Hannah blames others for her suicide may send the wrong idea to sensitive teens. Hannah's suicide is shown in great detail, as is more than one graphic rape scene, including one that's extremely brutal and involves a mop. There's also teen drinking and lots of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and "a--holes"). In the show's second season, the students of Liberty High continue to process Hannah's death while dealing with their own issues, including self-harm, more bullying, gun violence, and the pressure of testifying in a court case about Hannah. 

While this challenging story can help families start useful conversations about issues like bullying, sexual assault, and depression, the way these issues are addressed go against the advice of many mental health experts and may be confusing for some viewers, especially younger ones. To this end, Netflix has added trigger warnings to episodes that contain especially graphic or disturbing content, as well as brief videos with cast members stating that kids already at risk for depression and other mental health issues may not want to watch the show. Netflix account holders are able to set a PIN code for this series (or for any mature show) that will be required before others can view.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLewis1 April 14, 2017

Are you kidding me?

Parents, Please, please, please watch this before you let your kids even think about watching it. There are messages in this show that need to be heard, but the... Continue reading
Adult Written byTalia J. April 18, 2017

Unpopular opinion

I can't believe so many people think this is "great for kids to watch". The content is the content...language, rape, alcohol, drugs. That's... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBookNerd1842 April 2, 2017

A Must-See For Any High School Student

Back in sixth grade, I eagerly picked up the novel "Thirteen Reasons Why" from a shelf in the back of my catholic school's library. It had an eer... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bylulu2255 April 1, 2017

The review makes the violence and sex sound less extreme

The rating of 16+ is pretty accurate for this TV show, but there is not a good description of how much sex and violence are in the TV series. In the first episo... Continue reading

What's the story?

13 REASONS WHY follows Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he wrestles with his feelings after the recent suicide of his classmate and crush, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Haunted by their brief friendship and her shocking death, Clay is surprised when a package arrives containing audio tapes on which Hannah chronicled the 13 matters -- and 13 people who caused them -- that led her to end her life. As Clay listens to each side and follows clues Hannah left on the recordings, he retraces events that reveal secrets and her peers' roles in them, connecting the dots that inspired her death. The second season follows Clay and his friends as they continue to process Hannah's death five months later. The court case against Liberty High continues, and most of the characters are called to testify. There's a focus on justice for victims in this season, and issues like self-harm (in the form of cutting), gun violence, loneliness, heroin addiction, slut-shaming, and more are addressed. 

Is it any good?

This series isn't a pleasant watch by any means, but it does raise vital issues that can inspire valuable discussions between parents and teens. There are two disturbing forces at play throughout the story, the first being Hannah's downward spiral and the circumstances that instigated it. Serious matters like cyberbullying, body image, sexual assault, drug abuse, and gun violence are addressed unflinchingly; these scenes can be extremely graphic and difficult to watch for adults, let alone the targeted teen audience.

Hannah's choices are also complicated; it's clear that she blames others for her suicide. One wonders what, if anything, she hoped to gain by inflicting posthumous guilt on parties either actively engaged in tormenting her or innocently involved. As 13 Reasons Why is told from Clay's point of view, there's sympathy for him and others left behind, giving viewers a thought-provoking glimpse of what it's like to pick up the pieces after a suicide. In the second season, Clay's journey continues, and watching him and his friend group work through even more brutal challenges is nearly too much to bear, but there's also beauty in Clay's processing of grief and Jessica's courage to speak up about her sexual assault. A side plot about a potential school shooting is a bit sensationalized but also highlights the pain of loneliness. At-risk teens should take great care in choosing to watch this very graphic and frank series, but families with mature teens may find that it opens up doors to talk about some difficult subjects. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the issues raised in 13 Reasons Why. Have your teens witnessed or experienced cyberbullying or more traditional bullying? What different forms can this behavior take these days? What defenses can you use against it?

  • Teens: Do you find your peer pool to be mostly inclusive or exclusive? Can social media be a curse as well as a blessing? How does our constant connection to other people via cell phones cause stress? On the other hand, what are the benefits of this culture?

  • Families can talk about gun violence and safety. In Season 2, guns play a major role in the plot for a few different characters. Are they used responsibly? What do you think about the availability of guns in this show? Is it realistic? 

  • Families can also talk about suicide and the way it's addressed in this series. When is it important to talk about mental health, especially if you're worried about a friend or family member? Netflix has a website to visit after viewing the series, 13ReasonsWhy.info. What other resources are available to help both kids and adults

  • Sexual assault, specifically the rape of main characters, plays a large role in this series. Families can talk about resources available to teens; the Crisis Text Line is an excellent way for phone-shy teens to reach out in times of need.

TV details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love teen dramas

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate