Using Mainstream Media to Talk to Teens

person's feet up on table while watching tv

I don’t need to tell you that mainstream media has a big impact on middle and high schoolers.

Whether you live and breathe Top 40 hits or are a happily aloof hipster, it is impossible to escape the influences of certain trends entirely.

With mainstream media such as 13 Reasons Why, Big Little Lies, and many other TV shows that tackle issues of sexual assault, it is easy to strike up conversations about these programs’ themes, especially with the teens in your life.

I myself am a junior in high school and have experienced firsthand the discussions that arise around these shows. I have to say, not all of it is good.

I’ve heard many people who make shockingly inappropriate and derogatory jokes about the female characters in the shows. Despite increased awareness about rape and bullying, as well as the emotional toll these things take on victims, at my school, nude photos are still circulated, teens are still being cruel, and people are ignoring students’ clear cries for help.

I believe 13 Reasons Why and Big Little Lies are important and break the silence surrounding many important issues, but there are many who take the content produced in the show lightly or solely as entertainment, not a reflection of real-life problems.

So I would encourage parents to be aware of this and not let the teens in your life take these issues lightly. Honestly, it is sometimes impossible to know what your teenager is up to. There will always be new forms of social media, peer pressure, and ways to get away with things that you may not be up to date on. But talking through these issues – using media and popular culture as a tool – will help us be educated on issues such as sexual assault, helping instill in us the importance of accountability of our actions. Ultimately, the goal is to create a culture of respect.

A film that I would recommend you watch with your teenager is Audrie and Daisy. This Netflix original tells the true stories of high schools girls who were sexually assaulted. I can almost guarantee that your high schooler will have experience with some of the rape-culture behavior featured in the movie, be it cyberbullying, sexual harassment, or a “boys will be boys” mentality among adults. I believe this film drives home issues touched on in popular media in a real, relatable way.

Parents have a unique and irreplaceable role in preventing the cycle of rape culture and sexual assault, so please talk to your child about these issues and discuss the ways they have been brought up in popular media.

For more, visit