What Families Can Learn From Watching Stranger Things Together
The long-awaited third season of the popular Netflix show Stranger Things recently dropped, breaking viewership records and becoming the must-watch release of the summer. The series, set in a small Indiana town in the 1980s, was inspired by horror and science fiction movies of the era, and it has won audiences over with its likable young stars, throwback soundtrack, and incredible attention to detail as it recreates 80s culture. Older generations appreciate the heady dose of nostalgia and younger generations like the focus on the teen leads (with cool retro clothes).
Keep in mind, however, that Stranger Things is rated TV-14. Every family is different, but even younger teens may be scared by some of the more menacing creatures. There are also situations of physical violence, profanity, mild sexuality, and more. For older teens, it’s a show to watch together. In this post, we dive into how watching Stranger Things can help spur heart-to-heart conversations with your teens about growing up. Watching kids from a different decade navigate the same issues they do today highlights just how universal some things are.
The mall was the place to be — but came with its own set of rules
A large portion of season three takes place at the center of Hawkins’ teen social life — the Starcourt Mall. While malls still exist today, they don’t occupy the same cultural importance they once did. Shopping, video games, and killing time are all done online now! But in the past, the first trip to the mall without an adult was truly a rite of passage. Kids today may think their parents know their every move because of cell phones, but parents back then had our number, too. If anything, there were even more rules because of the lack of constant contact.
Talk to your kids about how you always had to tell your parents who you would be with (sometimes, they’d even call their parents to confirm). Detail the strict rules about who could pick you up, who could drop you off, and when. Mention the never-ending lectures about Stranger Danger and about not hanging out with “the wrong crowd” at the food court. Parents have always been concerned about their kids’ safety — the focal point just changes for each generation. Today they’re focused more on digital dangers.
The closest thing to a cell phone in Hawkins was a walkie-talkie
Remember payphones? They were the only way you could call your parents if you were away from home or out in public — not terribly convenient if you were lost and there wasn’t one around. The kids of Stranger Things manage to stay in close contact through the use of walkie-talkies, which is fortunate considering how much trouble they get into. But those are limited by proximity and battery power, which makes them unreliable, especially when you’re transmitting to the Upside Down.
A fun conversation with your kids can center around how they’d make plans with their friends if they couldn’t text or message them. Regale them with stories about how when you’d call your friend’s house, there was always a chance their dad would pick up and you’d have to make awkward small talk. On a more serious note, ask them if they think texting and instant communication has any negative impacts on their relationships with their friends. You may be surprised by what you learn.
People could smoke in public back then
Almost more unbelievable than the existence of the Mindflayer monster is the fact that Chief of Police John Hopper is seen smoking cigarettes — a lot. Smoking today is off-limits in most public places, and on-screen depictions in contemporary films are likewise frowned upon. Today’s generation has never been asked “Smoking or Non?” when being seated at a restaurant, so they probably don’t understand what a big deal it is to see someone smoking so openly in a TV show.
Smoking may not be in vogue like it used to be, but there’s something else kids do understand — vaping. Use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed among America’s youth, and it’s a rising public health concern. Ask them what they’ve experienced at school and with friends, and what they think of vaping.
At Bark, we know that parenting the first generation of digital natives is challenging and vastly different from our own experiences as children — whether we grew up in the 80s or 90s. Fortunately, you’re not alone on this journey. Bark’s award-winning service helps keep kids safe online and in real life by monitoring texts, email, chat, YouTube, and 24+ social media platforms for signs of cyberbullying, adult content, suicidal ideation, and more. Sign up today for a free, one-week trial of Bark.