Guide: The Best Teen TV Shows

Guide: The Best Teen TV Shows

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Even high schoolers need consistent TV limits. Screen time should be balanced with homework, physical activity and family time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. When setting limits on TV for your teens, consider their daily activities, after school job, class load and other factors to decide what’s right for your family.

As a parent of a teen, stay involved in your kid’s TV viewing. Teen TV shows often include beauty ideals, dating, drugs and alcohol, stereotyping and more that should be discussed within your family. While raunchy sitcoms and high school sagas are often part of a teen’s TV diet, also consider smart sci-fi, documentaries, science and history to keep your high schooler entertained. Shows with strong female leads, diverse families and twisting plots can all deliver positive messages and make older kids think.

There are tons of great teen TV shows available on network TV, cable channels, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. New series that teens will enjoy are constantly premiering, but don’t forget about classic teen-appropriate programs, like Seinfeld, Parks and Recreations and Gilmore Girls.

This guide to TV shows for teens includes family sitcoms, cop shows, superhero narratives and series set in high school. No matter what type of TV your teen enjoys, they should find a new show to love here. All of the teen TV shows included are rated as age-appropriate by Common Sense Media and are loved by parents, teens and TV reviewers alike.

Angie Tribeca

“Smart-aleck cop comedies are nothing new. But in its minute-to-minute pleasures, ‘Angie Tribeca’ is one big goofy grin of a sitcom.” – Tim Grierson, The Wrap
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, TBS, VUDU

Arrow

“[There’s] plenty for a young audience to enjoy here but… there’s a much bigger emphasis on courting comic book fans.” – Caroline Preece, Den of Geek!
Available on: CW, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix

Blue Bloods

“It’s solid police action and storytelling, but my favorite part of the series is the fact that the main characters, a family of police officers, always get the family together for a multi-generational family dinner at the end of each episode, and discuss the changing moral climate.” – Johnathan McKee, Jonathan’s Resources
Available on: Amazon Prime, CBS, CBS All Access, Hulu, Google Play, ION, iTunes, Netflix, WGN America

The Carrie Diaries

“Underage drinking is shown, sometimes to the point of drunkenness, and Carrie finds pot in her younger sister’s drawer. The sisters struggle with the loss of their mother, who died a few months earlier. Carrie makes some iffy judgment calls when she falls in with an older, more worldly crowd in the city. But she seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and she values her relationships with friends and family.” – Jane Boursaw, Orlando Family Magazine
Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix

Cheers

“Cheers’ humor, while expertly executed, is aimed squarely at adults. Not only does almost all of the action take place in a bar, with characters who drink constantly (though they never seem drunk), but sexual innuendo and sarcastic put-downs make up the bulk of the jokes.” – Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Available on: Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, Google Play, Hallmark Channel, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, VUDU

Community

“This well-written series successfully mixes traditional sitcom humor with some of the quirky social interactions made famous in The Breakfast Club. It’s also mildly edgy thanks to the way the humor plays off of stereotypes associated with community colleges, the professors who teach there, and the people who attend them.” – Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, VUDU

Degrassi

“Perhaps the Degrassi franchise owes its longevity to the fact that it offers characters, not caricatures. The end-result means young viewers are more likely to relate to what they see and even learn from it.” – Gina Catanzarite, Parents’ Choice
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, VUDU

Elementary

“You go in expecting a standard network murder-of-the-week mystery, and you get something much more — maybe not from the crime, but certainly from the ongoing story of the crime solver and his battle to maintain his sobriety and sanity.” – Robert Bianco, USA Today
Available on: CBS, CBS All Access, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, VUDU

Freaks and Geeks

“As a comedy, it is hilarious, especially when it comes the geeks’ antics. As a drama, it can be quite moving as Lindsay begins questioning her values and assumptions. And as a high school show, it certainly captures the awkwardness experienced by those of us who, for whatever reason, were never close to being ‘cool’ or ‘popular.’” – Jason Morehead, Patheos
Available on: Netflix

Friends

“It may lack smartphones and drug-fuelled clubbing, but perhaps that’s why it holds up. It tells a familiar story, one of working hard, attempting success, and trying to scrape enough together to eat dinner with people we actually like.” – Anne T Donahue, The Guardian
Available on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, MTV, Netflix, Nickelodeon, TBS

The Fosters

“Adoption, gay marriage, race, and more important topics are tackled in this ABC Family drama. Given some of the more mature content, we recommend parents watch this with their tweens.” – Leah Rocketto, Popsugar Moms
Available on: Amazon Prime, Freeform, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix

Gilmore Girls

“Gilmore Girls proves that “family friendly” need not mean prudish, out-of-touch, dull as tombs, or sugary sweet. The show is sassy, smart as a whip, and peppered with pop culture references and witty zingers… It also does important cultural work in expanding definitions of family and community and offers representations of both that reinforce traditional family values outside of what is typically pictured as a traditional family.” – Pamela Hill Nettleton, U.S. Catholic
Available on: Amazon Prime, Freeform, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, VUDU

Glee

“…I let my kids watch Glee. And in so doing, I am not just letting them be entertained by music and dancing and Sue Sylvester. I am exposing them to a diverse crew of humans who are just like us. Except that in many cases, they are different.” – Nina Restieri, Mom Agenda
Available on: Amazon Prime, FOX, Glee, Google Play, iTunes, VUDU

Jane the Virgin

“Like a sweeter Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin is a telenovela, but one with a sense of irony and wit, simultaneously winking at and embracing its own format. It is… a highly stylized, big-hearted, zippy Technicolor dramedy that is also, uncloyingly, another example of network TV’s growing… diversity.” – Willa Paskin, Slate
Available on: Amazon Prime, CW, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, VUDU

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes an effort to try to do the right things, and that’s important… These agents can do some positively gritty things, and their surroundings have gotten progressively darker. Their story is an inherently violent one—filled with fights and shootouts and occasionally grotesque corpses.” – Paul Asay, Plugged In
Available on: ABC, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, myNetworkTV, Netflix

Modern Family

“Modern Family posits an inclusive view of family that reflects some of our family’s basic views and values… Families, in the real world, come in all shapes and sizes — just as they do in the show… And no family’s life is perfect — people fight and act selfishly and sometimes do mean things to each other. But, in the end, families come together.” – Jay Palter, Home Made Dad
Available on: ABC, Amazon Prime, Hulu, VUDU

New Girl

“Though the show is almost too peppy and happy… the great writing and excellent cast chemistry, especially Deschanel’s willingness to go all out in her awkwardness, makes this [show] a nice surprise.” – Ross Bonaime, Paste Magazine
Available on: Amazon Prime, FOX, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix

The Office

“There’s some sexual humor, including interoffice affairs, as well as some low-level violence that’s played for laughs. In addition, some characters make racist and sexist remarks, and two secondary characters have problems with drugs and alcohol, also played for laughs.” – Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix

Seinfeld

“And somehow, despite each of the four’s unpleasant personality characteristics — no one in the petty, selfish quartet is in any way an ideal role model — their continuing follies are delightfully appealing.” – Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Available on: Hulu, Netflix DVD, TBS

Sherlock

“The show is honest to Arthur Conan Doyle’s concept of adventure through reason, but producers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are confident that Doyle’s basic construct can thrive in a post-Bourne pop-cultural realm.” – John Teti, A.V. Club
Available on: Amazon Prime, BBC America, Google Play, iTunes, PBS, VUDU

Stranger Things

“It has some PG language (much like E.T.), some frightening images and fantasy violence (like Super 8 or any of the Harry Potter films), but most families will find it very appropriate for their teens and tweens.” – Johnathan McKee, Jonathan’s Resources
Available on: Netflix

Supergirl

“Supergirl [is] a beacon of freshness in the superhero game. It [is] a show that [brings] optimism and genuine comic book heroism to the small screen.” – Merrill Barr, Forbes
Available on: Amazon Prime, CW, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, VUDU

Parks and Recreation

“A very funny, wickedly smart, surprisingly humane and deeply important show that defied all rules, regs and stereotypes to boot television comedy out of a deep and dangerous rut.” – Mary McNamara, LA Times
Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, VUDU

Pitch

“Families are hungry for TV shows that can be enjoyed by and are safe for the entire family, and ‘Pitch’ is a rare option in the TV universe that delightfully meets those criteria. And ‘Pitch’ offers an inspirational female lead character who instantly became a role model to children everywhere.” – Tim Winter, Parents Television Council
Available on: Amazon Prime, FOX, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, VUDU

This Is Us

“While the show has some adult elements and there is some brief partial nudity… the show is generally suitable for junior-high students and up. It deals with a range of family issues in a slightly sentimentalized, but mostly realistic, manner. In particular, it shows both Jack and Randall as strong, involved, intelligent fathers, who love spending time with their families — a stark contrast to the bumbling, lazy dads too often seen on TV.” – Kate O’Hare, Patheos
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, NBC, VUDU

Ugly Betty

“Betty is hardworking, has high moral standards and is also very intelligent. Very often Betty is torn between the competitive American work ethic and the Latino familismo but she always manages to make the right decisions.” – Heidi Denzel de Tirado, Media Monitoring and Ethnicity: Representing Latino Families on American Television
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix DVD, VUDU

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