If you've heard of the Bird Box Challenge & # 39 ;, in which people blindly do themselves (and sometimes their children) different and sometimes dangerous activities to mimic characters in the "Bird Box" movie from Netflix, You may also have heard that Netflix did it Twitter to warn of taking up this challenge.
As the online streaming service puts it: "I can not believe I have to say this, but: PLEASE DO NOT DENY YOURSELF WITH THIS CHALLENGE OF THE BIRD BOX We do not know how this started, and we appreciate love, but Boy and Girl have only one wish for 2019 and it is that you do not end up in hospital by memes. & # 39;
What this ultimately means is that Netflix has finally acknowledged that its programs can influence viewers.
That is a far cry from his reaction to parents' concerns about the creation and distribution of the teen-oriented suicide drama, "13 Reasons Why."
According to Deadline, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said: "13 Reasons why has been hugely popular and successful, it's exciting content, it's controversial, but nobody has to look at it."
It is easy to see how insensitive that comment is in light of the content found in the first season of "13 Reasons Why." The program was not only enveloped by explicit sexual violence, blasphemy and substance abuse, but it also romanticized teenage suicide and probably included the most graphic suicidal scene ever produced for video or film – that of the female protagonist who cuts her wrists.
Academic Research showed an increase of 26 percent in the Google search term & # 39; How to Kill Myself & # 39; after the release of Season 1.
Season 2 was no better. Among the volumes of dark, explicit content, a teenager is graphically subdivided with a mop. This boy then seeks revenge by planning a shooting at school.
Netflix & # 39; s own academic Research about the show has proven that their content has an impact on viewers, and the company has received a lot of public criticism and warnings about & # 39; 13 Reasons Why & # 39 ;. Suicide prevention experts and others members of the medical community have publicly discussed their concerns about the potentially harmful effects of the show for children.
Schools throughout the US have warned parents about the series. Pro-family organizations and lawyers, including the Parents Television Council, have called on Netflix to remove the program and have heard from tens of thousands of concerned citizens through online petitions against the show.
Even commentators in the media, both internationally and in the US, believe that the series presents suicide in a dangerous, glamorous way.
New academic Research published in Psychiatric Services even found that suicidal teenagers claimed that "13 Reasons Why" increased their risk of taking their own lives.
And the worst of all is that there has been news reports and stories about children who took their own lives after binge watching the first season.
It is absolutely disgraceful that Netflix continues to offer this toxic program to children.
But the Netflix warning about the "Bird Box Challenge" proves the blatant double standard of the company with regard to the potential damage that programming can have for viewers. How can Netflix continue to allow a show like "13 Reasons Why," with the potential for real damage, to stay while being warned about the effects of another?
As the competition for families and consumers continues to increase with the anticipated arrival of the Disney + streaming service, Netflix really does seek to win back the trust of families. Although Netflix is a streaming giant, it is still a publicly traded company that deliberately sells products to children that they know to be harmful. It must take responsibility for its products. And Netflix shareholders must keep this for their account.
Families are rightly concerned about "13 Reasons Why" and other Netflix programs that focus on minors, such as the cartoon "Big Mouth", which tastes like children in a big way; "Desire", a film that borders on child pornography; and now even & # 39; Sex Education & # 39 ;, with characters from high school engaged in explicit images of sex and nudity.
It is time for Netflix to show real care for children and families. The company can do this by unambiguously and positively removing its own homemade blindfold over the impact the content of the program can have on viewers – especially children.
Tim Winter, former NBC and MGM director, is the chairman of the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan educational organization that advocates responsible entertainment. (www.ParentsTV.org)