Dubai: Dubai students are getting addicted to a controversial TV series that was banned in some US and Canadian schools, prompting at least one school here to sound an alarm, Gulf News has learnt.
The school, which follows the Indian CBSE curriculum, has issued a warning to parents after it found that some of its students “are under the influence of a very trending TV show ‘13 Reasons Why’ which is actually banned in many countries.”
The teen drama being streamed on Netflix tells the story about 13 reasons why a young girl killed herself. It has drawn wide criticism for graphic representation of suicide and sexual assault. Reports have also linked some cases of teen suicides to the show.
Netflix reportedly started displaying warning messages in some episodes after the show drew flak for the content which is graphic in nature and potentially disturbing for youngsters though it claims to show positive messages regarding bullying and suicide prevention.
However, the Dubai school said the “show is so influential that teenagers nurture thoughts of killing themselves rather than confronting the challenges in life.”
The school also sent links stating the details of the show, “which is quiet alarming”.
“It is through Instagram that we have noticed their [pupils’] recent obsession with this show. It is a graphic misrepresentation of suicide and its causes,” the student coordinator for grade nine and 10 said in a mail to parents.
“We earnestly request the parents to talk to your wards and completely [make them] refrain from watching this show or any such games/show which will have a negative impact on the children,” it said.
The school said the management has taken the matter seriously and, with the help of the counselling department, will guide students accordingly.
“But as you are all aware, no positive outcome can be expected if we don’t receive the support from parents. Hence requesting all parents to take some time out from their busy schedule, just to talk to the children and find out what is going on in their lives. Let’s together make our children understand that challenges are meant to be faced and overcome... that happiness in life should be genuine and not injected through materialism,” the coordinator added.
Recently, alarmed by the loss of seven Colorado students who recently killed themselves, a school district official in US ordered librarians to temporarily stop circulating a book that’s the basis for the popular new series. The best-selling young adult novel, published in 2007, follows a high school girl who kills herself after creating a series of tapes for her classmates to play after her death. She gave the tapes to people who influenced her decision.
Her death in the Netflix series is depicted in the final episode of the first season, and the graphic scene has prompted schools across the country to send letters to parents and guardians with tips on how to prevent suicide.
From upstate New York to the Midwest and California, school administrators have warned that the series sensationalises suicide and does not provide a good road map for people struggling with mental illness. There is no evidence that any of the Mesa County students who killed themselves since the beginning of the school year were inspired by the series or the book, Associated Press reported last month.
The warning about the TV show comes just weeks after parents became panicky about the online game ‘Blue Whale,’ which was reportedly linked to several teen deaths in Russia.
There has been no reported evidence for children here playing the game, the creator of which was arrested in Russia this week. However, the new concern over the teen drama gathers significance as the school here has found the students getting influenced by it.
Child and adolescent psychology expert in Dubai Dr Mohammad S. Tahir told Gulf News that descriptive text and graphic pictures and visuals about suicide can be traumatic and easily influence youngsters.
“It might be interpreted differently by different people. They might see it as one way to get sympathy and attention. Since teenagers are vulnerable and want to get popular, they may try imitating the scenes,” said Dr Tahir who is also the director at American Wellness Centre in Dubai Healthcare City.
Since many teens generally long to be unique and stand out, he said such content can be very misleading and misguiding in a way that they might be influenced to get popular by trying to commit suicide.
“If they are mildly depressed, they might unconsciously feel very much affected and find this [suicide] as a way out from painful feelings and stress. Some kids may be bullied and trapped and don’t have the courage to confront it. They can easily fall prey to such things.”
Dr Tahir said psychological professionals and think tanks always discourage such practices and urge media to refrain from showing such content.
“There should be more educational programmes to spread awareness. School should also offer more parental guidance programmes as they are mostly unsure of what to do in guiding children in such cases,” he added.