Guide: The Best TV Shows for Tweens

Guide: The Best TV Shows for Tweens

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How much screen time your tween enjoys is up to you, as a parent. Video games, homework on the computer, apps and TV all add up, but they’re not created equal. Using a tablet, computer or smartphone can be educational or have social value, while TV is usually a passive event.

Choosing great tween TV shows that continue to teach science, history, diversity and other important themes can help make the time your 10, 11 or 12 year old does spend in front of the TV count. For middle schoolers, high-quality reality TV and family sitcoms are great, in addition to shows made specifically for tweens.

Setting consistent boundaries on TV time and content helps your tweens choose which TV shows are worth their screen time. Engaging in conversations about what your kids are watching is important as well. Common Sense Media highlights that you should continue to watch “how your kids act during and after watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out online.”

TV time should be balanced with sports, hobbies, time with friends, school work, reading and family activities. Then, remaining time in your middle schooler’s day can be filled with their favorite TV shows appropriate for 10, 11 and 12 year olds.

The TV shows for tweens on this guide include network favorites that parents and kids can enjoy together, as well as tame reality TV, shows set in middle or high school, and favorite streaming series. The following tween TV shows are rated as age-appropriate by Common Sense Media and many garnered excellent reviews from parents, kids and mainstream publications.

Black-ish

“What ultimately gives Black-ish so much warmth—a warmth reminiscent of, yes, The Cosby Show—is its optimism that audiences, of all colors, will not be turned off by its specificity. Like the many, many sitcoms about the affluent white experience, this is a show that is meant to be seen and enjoyed by everyone.” – Willa Paskin, Slate
Available on: ABC, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Google Play, iTunes

Boy Meets World

“The show still missed the mark on a lot of things (the absurdly layered wardrobe of the principal cast, for one), but the daily anxieties faced by Cory felt like they were drawn from actual adolescent experiences.” – Erik Adams, A.V. Club
Available on: Amazon Prime, Disney Channel, Google Play, iTunes, VUDU

Chopped

“[Chopped] teaches about unique ingredients and how they can be incorporated into a dish. It also demonstrates how even professional chefs can make mistakes and learn better (or different) ways to make something.” – Nicole, SAHMReviews.com
Available on: Amazon Prime, Food Network, Google Play, iTunes

A Different World

“This was a series that had as much influence—if not more—than its precursor, The Cosby Show, and found a space for an audience of black kids with a future fantasy. For any pre-collegiate viewer, it was just as iconic and aspirational—even if you were light years from that place in life.” – Clover Hope, The Muse
Available on: DVD

Doctor Who

“Doctor Who’s great gift has been to introduce generations of kids to dread, with the safety net of knowing, first, that the Doctor and his assistants will prevail, one way or another; and second, that the fear will pass in less than an hour.” – Michael Hann, The Guardian
Available on: Amazon Prime, BBC America, Google Play, iTunes, VUDU

Good Witch

“The characters were absolutely delightful, and the story dealt with many family and even current issues. As always with Hallmark, doing the ‘right’ thing was emphasized, and making bad decisions was frowned upon (and not rewarded).” – Ruth, My Devotional Thoughts
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hallmark Channel, iTunes, VUDU

The Grinder

“[Under] the satire of TV, The Grinder is a story of two brothers reconnecting, and learning to support and care about one another.” – Christopher Gildemeister, Parents Television Council
Available on: Amazon Prime, FOX, Google Play, VUDU

The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation

“Host Mo Rocca tells viewers of historic innovators of the past, explaining the stories behind great inventions, and then he goes out and finds inventors around the country who are working on new projects. The show is designed to both inspire and educate, and get everyone in your house into the innovation spirit. Think beyond TV, out of the box – and away from the box.” – Ann Oldenburg, Parents’ Choice
Available on: CBS, CBS All Access

Horrible Histories

“An unpredictable show full of raw energy, with great comedy writing that makes you laugh out loud. Innovative, challenging, brave, bold and clever with outstanding acting.” – Judges, Royal Television Society Program Awards
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes

I Am Jazz

“Overall ‘I Am Jazz’ plays less like advocacy and more like the approachable, if stagey, family-reality hybrids cable has made a staple. Reality shows like these, for all their sensationalism or sleight-of-hand, increasingly do what sitcoms like The Cosby Show (also recently fallen to controversy) used to. On the one hand, they offer a sense of possibility to an audience—here, trans kids—that had never seen itself on-screen. On the other, they introduce the rest of the audience to virtual neighbors many of them don’t have in real life…” – James Poniewozik, TIME
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, TLC, TLC Go, VUDU

Last American Cowboy

“The series will be interesting to anyone who ever dreamed of being a cowboy, and other than some graphic scenes of cows giving birth and some mild cussing, there’s very little that might concern parents.” – Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Available on: Amazon Prime, Animal Planet

Legendary Dudas

“Legendary Dudas turned out to be quite a surprise, a successful execution of the Modern Family formula in middle school format, but alas the six episodes we saw in the summer will be it forever.” – Nick and Disney Reviewed
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Nickelodeon, VUDU

Little Mosque on the Prairie

“The sitcom was the most accurate depiction of Muslims to date and succeeded in bringing the mainstream Muslim community to the television screen, especially at a time when secular and ‘progressive’ Muslims get preferential treatment… Its message was simple: Set aside your prejudice, give up your spiritual pride and be a good neighbor.” – Waleed S. Ahmed, Muslim Matters
Available on: Amazon Prime, Hulu

The Middle

“The Middle is consistently chosen as Best TV Show of the Week because of its humorous depiction of the clash of wills between teenagers, children, and parents — yet, with parental authority, family, and good moral lessons always being upheld in the end…” – Christopher Gildmeister, Parents Television Council
Available on: ABC, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, VUDU

Milo Murphy’s Law

“Milo Murphy’s Law rolls out laugh a minute, gag after gag… further commanded by its three likable leads. Bolster all this with just as engaging stories to guide them forward, these three well-rounded characters are what helps raise Milo Murphy’s Law into its humorous heights.” – Donald Strohman, The Young Folks
Available on: Amazon Prime, Disney XD, Google Play, iTunes

NOVA

“Indeed, most ”Nova” episodes are well done; the quality is proven by the durability of the series. The series puts taste and intelligence to work.” – John Corry, NYT
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, PBS

Project Runway: Junior

“This is exactly the show reality television needs. With the contestants’ endearing youthful exuberance and talent, combined with the challenging circumstances and drama typical of the hit “Project Runway” series — it’s difficult not to get hooked after the first episode.” – Shir Avinadav, The Michigan Daily
Available on: Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Lifetime, My Lifetime, VUDU

A Series of Unfortunate Events

“Based on the best-selling series by Lemony Snicket, the Netflix remake features big names. Each episode will leave you and your kids yearning for more imaginative characters, intricate storylines and fantastical scenery.” – Roberta Fiorito, Pure Wow
Available on: Netflix

Speechless

“The headline about ‘Speechless’ is that one of its characters is disabled, but the show gleefully avoids being treacly or sentimental. From the outset, it treats J.J. DiMeo as a multifaceted character who has flaws and likable qualities, just like everyone else in his fractious, loving family of five.” – Maureen Ryan, Variety
Available on: ABC, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, VUDU

Steven Universe

“There’s lots of action and battles with monsters, but the show’s main message is about self-awareness and acceptance… You may want to consider this show for your older tween, because, in addition to some violence, there are very deep and emotional themes, including sexual identity and relationships.” – Georgette, Cool Mom Picks
Available on: Amazon Prime, Cartoon Network, Google Play, iTunes, VUDU

Time Warp

“The show’s style comes across informal yet informative – the cameras capture the set-up of the event as well as other parts of the Time Warp lab. Jeff [the host] has the ability to bring the technical into the realm of the every-day, clearly explaining different aspects of the project the team is working on.” – Russ Neumeir, Wired
Available on: DVD

The Twilight Zone

“Fortunately, there is still a place where ideas matter, where things happen regardless of whether or not they are fair, where themes and concepts torn from the headlines are doggedly pursued to often horrific endings… That place has always been and always will be … The Twilight Zone.” – Phelim O’Neill, The Guardian
Available on: Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Syfy, VUDU

Unchained Reaction

“Think giant Rube Goldberg machines–balls falling and knocking things into other things. Seesaws going up and throwing things into the air, each step in the process impacting the next, with each team vying to build the most impressive contraption in five tension-packed days. The teams, which are comprised of highly-skilled builders, scientists, and makers, are given a theme to follow, and identical sets of supplies with which to work. The imaginations are what sets them apart from their rivals.” – Daniel Terdiman, CNET
Available on: Amazon Prime, Discovery Channel, iTunes

Victorious

“These kids are nice. They’re just not exactly on a quest to make themselves—or their audience—better. They baby-sit their neighbors’ dogs. They humor their ditzy relatives. They steer well clear of drugs, premarital sex and harsh profanity. But they proffer few lessons for fans to chew on and give few examples of how to really behave.” – Paul Asay, Plugged In
Available on: Amazon Prime, Nickelodeon, VUDU

The Voice

“This series matches the musical competitiveness of American Idol but attempts to do so by underscoring the importance of vocal ability rather than looks and image… [The coaches’] ability and desire to constructively critique contestants in a way that’s both honest and encouraging also creates a lot of positive energy.” – Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Available on: Hulu, NBC

The Wonder Years

“The Wonder Years is the coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Kevin Arnold, who attempts to navigate the rough waters of adolescence and survive both the suburbs and the cultural transition from the ’60s to the ’70s. But if that was all The Wonder Years was, the show would never have served as the cultural milestone that it did.” – Libby Hill, A.V. Club
Available on: Amazon Prime, Netflix

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