Ep. 16: Role Models & Drug Slang

Ep. 16: Role Models & Drug Slang

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Summary:
Most parents worry about the influence that other teenagers can have on their teen, but what about other role models? Join us as we talk positive and negative role models. Chris and Karlie also tackle drug slang for the most common drugs among teens.

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In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

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About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

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A Guide to 13 Reasons Why

A Guide to 13 Reasons Why

* Warning: Spoilers of 13 Reasons Why Season Two and discussion of graphic content ahead.

 

The popular, controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why returned two weeks ago with Season Two. It was as interesting, graphic, provocative and disturbing as the first season. I can see why teenagers identify with it and parents fear it.

Last year, we received several questions and concerns around the first season of 13 Reasons Why. As an avid Neflix fan, I decided to watch the show to have a better idea of what teenagers were being exposed to and to help parents, teachers, and other helpers have positive conversation in the midst of a controversial series. After watching Season Two, I have a few thoughts, tips, and questions that I hope will help you have educated, positive, and relevant conversations with the teenagers in your life.

 

What is 13 Reasons Why?

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix Original Series about Hannah Baker, a high school student who chronicles her inner struggle and the 13 reasons why she chooses to kill herself on 13 cassette tapes. Season One revolved around these 13 tapes and the individuals (both teenagers and adults) who appear on the cassette tapes she leaves behind after her death.

On the show’s site 13ReasonsWhy.info, Netflix describes Season Two as follows:

13 Reasons Why Season 2 picks up in the aftermath of Hannah’s death and the start of our characters’ complicated journeys toward healing and recovery. Liberty High prepares to go on trial, but someone will stop at nothing to keep the truth surrounding Hannah’s death concealed. A series of ominous polaroids lead Clay and his classmates to uncover a sickening secret and a conspiracy to cover it up.

This show is suspenseful, entertaining, relevant, and revolves around issues many of our teenagers see in the halls of their school. While the series is set in a public High School, I believe the target audience ranges from middle school students to young adults. Not just teenagers are exposed to the situations portrayed.

To start a conversation about 13 Reasons Why, ask your teen the following questions:

  • Have you heard of the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why? 
  • Have you or any of your friends watched the show?
  • Would you be willing to talk about what you have seen or heard?

 

The Content of 13 Reasons Why

The content of 13 Reasons Why has been described as graphic, disturbing, dangerous, tragic, and intense. At the beginning of the first episode of Season Two, the actors of the hit series also give the following disclaimer:

13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation. But if you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you, or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult. And if you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a school counselor, or an adult you trust, call a local helpline, or go to 13ReasonsWhy.info. Because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier. 

The stated purpose of the show is to start conversations, but I want to make you aware that the conversations can come with a price when watching the show. 13 Reasons Why includes bad language (the F word is used often), female nudity, sex scenes and other mature content.

Besides this, it also portrays intense scenes and conversations about substance abuse and the detox process, rape, gun violence, anxiety attacks, suicide, self-harm, bullying, homelessness, pornography, and masturbation. The scene that many people have a problem with this season includes a graphic depiction of a teenage boy getting sodomized by three classmates.

If your teenager is aware of the show or has watched 13 Reasons Why, ask the following questions:

  • Who would you talk to if negative feelings were triggered by the content in 13 Reasons Why?
  • What scenes and conversations seemed accurately portrayed?
  • How could the show and/or characters have approached the situations differently?

 

Watching 13 Reasons Why

I am not the parent of the teen, and I am also not recommending 13 Reasons Why for you or your teen. However, if your teen has already watched the show or is going to watch it, please don’t let them watch it alone! I have heard from several teens that the content mentioned above can trigger negative thoughts and actions.

Melissa Henson, the Program Director of the Parents Television Council, warned parents and adults by saying:

For kids who are already at risk, who are being bullied or abused, the show may only serve to trigger those feelings and create dangerous real-life circumstances. We urge parents and schools to be alert and on guard in the weeks and months ahead.

I understand that we live in a dangerous world where teenagers have access to Netflix on their televisions, phones, gaming systems, laptops, and tablets. We would be naive to ignore this show by saying, “My child would never watch that.” I would encourage you to set guidelines, have a discussion, and ask your teen to watch it with an adult if necessary. This series might not be right for you or your teen, but whether you watch the series or not, it can start a positive conversation about what your teen is exposed to every week in the halls of their school.

At 13ReasonsWhy.info, there is a discussion guide that has helpful tips and questions for watching the show and engaging in conversation. Some of these include pausing to talk about issues in the moment or skipping scenes that feel uncomfortable. This could be a great resource if you choose to watch the show!

Start by asking:

  • What would change if you watched the show with an adult present?
  • How can this show start a positive conversation between teens and adults?

 

As I said above, many teenagers and young adults identify with the characters and situations portrayed in 13 Reasons Why. For this reason, it can be extremely dangerous. As teenagers see themselves and their friends in the characters, they may also seek the show for answers, guidance, or understanding. Let me be clear – while I do believe this show portrays relevant content, it is a scripted drama. It was made to draw people in, shock audiences, and make money. Some pieces may look like real life, but it is not real life.

A final note: For season one, we wrote a series of blog posts. This year, be looking for a series of podcast episodes that will take a deeper dive into the topics and issues raised in season two of 13 Reasons Why. Check out The Teen Life Podcast to subscribe so you won’t miss these episodes! If you have any other questions, thoughts, or concerns, please leave a comment or send an email to info@teenlife.ngo.

 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
The Mess of Loving Teenagers

The Mess of Loving Teenagers

Loving teenagers isn’t always easy. Some days it is actually really difficult.

I had a tough Support Group this week. I did not walk away with a great feeling of accomplishment or even much hope. The conversations seemed to revolve around gangs, drugs, and baby mamas (yes, multiple). The students were distracted, disengaged, and at times disrespectful.

In situations like this, it would be so easy to walk away and not come back. I am not forced to like these teens. I am under no obligation to see them again.

But we don’t always have the choice to walk away. Many of us have teenagers in our lives that we have to spend time with. They live in our homes, go to our schools, are involved in our youth groups, and play on our sport teams.

 

I don’t have an answer that will make teen relationships easy or simple. (If you know of a trick, please share it!) But I do know a couple of things…

You are the right person.If you are already in the life of a teenager, there is no one more qualified to walk with them.  Teenagers don’t always need new people to come and change their lives. They need the people who are already in their lives to notice them, invest in them, and encourage them. Maybe that means helping them find other resources, but we have to tap into the community that is already surrounding our students. It is a hard job, but it is your job!

The right thing can be messy. If you are looking for the easy, clean thing, you might be looking for the wrong solution! It is right to stick it out in a Support Group that seems to be going wrong. Right is finding glimmers of hope like a girl talking about an attitude change that made her week better. That is small, and it didn’t get her out of trouble, but it is setting her on the right path. We don’t need to fear getting a little messy. I don’t know about you, but my life can be sticky, too. When we are dealing with other people (especially adolescents), it is always going to be messy, but it can also be right and good.

It is the right thing to stay. What difference would we see in teen culture if the people in their lives chose to stay? If that dad didn’t walk out? Or that teacher didn’t give up? Or that friend didn’t kill herself? By this point, I think we can all agree that staying is hard. But the simple the act of staying probably makes the biggest difference. I could completely stop my group after a hard week, but it is so much more powerful when I choose to come back. I might not agree with their choices, I might not like the words they use or the topics they discuss, but I will continue to come back week after week. Every time you stay, come back, and reengage, you are sending the message that you care and that they matter.

 

Teenagers need you. They need a community who will call them to a higher standard but stick around when they fall a little short. You are probably already doing this in your own context, but this is where Teen Life Support Groups can step onto a school campus and make a difference for a group of teens. For 8 weeks, we climb into the mess and keep coming back. Our volunteers ask the hard questions and encourage the small changes that make a big difference. We would love for you to step into the mess with us.

We are wrapping up our Spring Fundraiser this week, but you can still give to help us provide groups to students who need support, consistency and a little extra encouragement. You can give here. Help us equip students and let us empower you to stay in the hard times!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
The Red Line

The Red Line

In 1934 as part of the New Deal, the government created the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Administration with the goal of preventing foreclosures through mortgage refinancing.  The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC), a government sponsored lender, proceeded to draw maps of American cities to determine which areas were worthy of mortgage lending and which areas were too high-risk. The HOLC color coded communities into green, blue, yellow, and red areas. Each area came with a definition.

Green – “hot spots,” new, well planned sections of the city

Blue – completely developed areas – these areas were still good but not new

Yellow – areas in a transition period, characterized by age, lack of care

Red – “high-risk” areas predominately with residents of Color – labeled as areas with detrimental influences and poor maintenance– were considered undesirable areas

 

The term “redlining” was coined to explain this practice of denying loans and services based on a neighborhood’s demographic makeup. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act made these maps and practices officially illegal, but the long-term ramifications continue on 50 years later.

We, as parents, teachers, youth workers, or mentors have often grown up with “red lines” in our lives, especially those of us raised with a faith-based background. Red lines are topics, or even people, we aren’t sure we want to be involved with.

For example, ask those around you how sex education was handled in their home growing up. Based on those who I have asked, the answer was one of three things:

1. We just knew not to do it

2. We didn’t talk about it

3. In 5th grade health class.

 

A red line. An area too risky to walk into.

When we, as adults, walk on eggshells regarding certain topics, teens know. When we talk around topics, they pick up on it. Teens know walking on eggshells is a tool adults use to avoid the long-term ramifications of knowing the truth – to avoid the potential fallout associated with the truth. Teens know you aren’t willing to ask the hard questions and believe you aren’t willing to hear the true answers.

 

Here are a few topics that are commonly redlined by adults…

  1. Sex – You talk about sex, right? Talking about how bodies are changing and developing. Talking about respect for their body and for other’s bodies. Asking about impulse, self-control, and definitions of couples/partners. Asking if they are sexually active. Talking about consent and sexual assault.
  2. Suicide – When you suspect a child is struggling, are you direct? Asking, “Are you planning to kill yourself?” or “Are you planning to attempt suicide?” opens the door to keep people “safe for now” according to Living Works. Then ask follow-up questions such as, “Do you have a plan?” “When do you plan to kill yourself?” “Do you have access to ____ (whatever means needed to attempt suicide)?” “Have you attempted suicide before?”
  3. Drugs/Alcohol – Ask the direct question, “Have you been drinking?” or “Are you using drugs?” You can also ask, “What is your drug of choice?” or “How often do you use?” They might lie at first, but the ability to ask these questions opens the door for later conversations because they know you see them and you care.
  4. Mental Health Issues – Are you willing to ask about feelings of depression or anxiety? Are you willing to talk about their friends who may be struggling with these things? Ask youth if there is someone they are worried about.

 

What are the redlines in your past? How do they impact your interactions now? Who do you need to stop walking on eggshells around? What hard questions do you need to ask? What you choose today impacts the future.

**If you want to see these redlining maps or a picture of these ramifications, you can find more here.

 

 

Beth Nichols is Teen Life’s Program Manager. With her background in social work and experience as a mom of 4, her perspective is invaluable.
Teaching the Power of ‘No’

Teaching the Power of ‘No’

Two letters in the English language seem to be some of the most difficult for people to say to each other: No.

I have struggled with saying ‘no’, and my friends, family, and the teens I have worked with also struggle with saying ‘no’. Despite the struggle we have all experienced with saying ‘no’, we place high expectations on teenagers to be able to say it when they are being put under pressure in serious situations by their peers. Saying ‘no’ is such a powerful weapon and is a concept that we should be teaching teens through example. 

Why is saying ‘no’ so difficult, even for adults? Here are some reasons that lead to the internal struggle of verbalizing ‘no’. 

 

We are (kind of) brainwashed.

Since being a child, I have been taught that saying ‘no’ is rude. I should not refuse any food at a table even if I know I do not like it. I should not reject a friendship even if I do not enjoy that person. I should never reject a gift, no matter how horrible it is. Then, as a teenager I was told to say ‘no’ to boys, sex, drugs, alcohol, and any other ‘rebellious’ behavior. It felt like a sudden shift from never saying ‘no’ to being forced to say it in situations that are uncomfortable.

As adults, we need to focus on how hard it really is for teenagers to go from the expectation of never refusing anything to refusing those things that they may feel pressured into doing by their peers. Trusted adults should help teens understand when saying ‘no’ is acceptable and how to say it tactfully in those tough situations.

 

Saying ‘no’ once does not mean ‘no’ all the time.

As a teenager and young adult, I always worried that if I said ‘no’ to going out or spending time with friends, those people would never invite me out again, or I would be forgotten. This constant worry of being left out is a concept that can carry over into adulthood if it is not addressed early on. Teenageers have a need to be liked and accepted by their peers which can lead to difficulty navigating negative situations.

Adults should be models of what healthy friendships look like, which often includes saying ‘no’, even when everyone else may be saying ‘yes’. Helping teens understand how to build trust that someone will be there even when they say ‘no’ occasionally is an important aspect of learning how to develop their boundaries. Saying ‘no’ to hanging out is not the end all be all and can actually be really beneficial. Teens need to be reminded that saying ‘no’ does not need to include long excuses or reasons. If a person is truly a friend, they will still be there even when you sometimes say ‘no’.

 

How we can help teens learn the power of ‘no’?

Encourage teens to be assertive when the situation calls for it. This is a difficult concept (even for some adults), so it is crucial that we educate teens on how to be assertive without becoming aggressive. This can start with talking to teens about these topics:

Help teens understand their boundaries. What are they comfortable doing and what makes them uncomfortable?

Ask teens about their priorities or goals. Understanding how their decisions now can affect their futures can be a good incentive to learn to say ‘no’ when it matters.

Teens often have a role model that they admire. Ask them who are their role model is and why. Are they a role model for someone? I know several teens that have talked about how they need to be better because their younger sibling needs them. This can be a great incentive for a teen to learn how to say ‘no’ assertively in any situation.

 

Shelbie Fowler is currently a volunteer for Teen Life and has her Masters in Family Studies. She is passionate about being an advocate for family life education in order to grow families stronger.