Watching TV with your teens has all kinds of pitfalls: out-of-the-blue raunchy sex scenes, a surprise bloodbath (“Game of Thrones,” anyone?), and other awkward moments you never wanted to share with your kids. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get them in the room! But the right shows can bring families together.
Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, part of the fun of raising teens is that they have the ability to think deeply about issues, with strong opinions that are easier to share when they’re talking about TV and not their own lives. You can use the following teen-friendly shows as a launchpad for conversations you might not otherwise be able to have. And your kids might, just might, think you’re cool for a brief, wonderful moment.
—“Amazing Race,” CBS
Competitions and game shows are great for parents and teens to watch together; they’re engrossing, dramatic, and thoroughly entertaining. This one can inspire chats about teamwork, perseverance, and even culture clashes.
—“Angie Tribeca,” TBS
If you loved “Airplane!” and its broad comedy stylings, you might want to make this ridiculous detective show filled with funny — and sometimes groan-worthy — gags part of your parent/teen watching time.
A sitcom that’s appropriate for whole-family viewing, this lovable show is funny, brave, and topical for families of all colors and creeds.
—“The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” Comedy Central
Your kids may refuse to sit through a local news broadcast (who cares about the weather report?), but the humorous lens this show offers can engage teens and open up conversations about world issues.
—“Freaks and Geeks,” streaming
This early ‘80s-set cult classic is so hilarious your teens might forget that it’s all about how hard it is to be a teenager. No show understands teen angst like this one, and teens will see themselves and their own challenges reflected in a freak, a geek, or both.
Yeah, it’s pretty square. But it can also be a low-key way to test your knowledge against your teens. With its topical, historical, and just-plain-fun trivia questions, it can spark interesting discussions.
—“Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” streaming
Pretty clean and seriously silly, teens who are just developing their grown-up sense of humor will come for the goofy sight gags but stay for the absurd satire.
—“Saturday Night Live,” NBC
The ritual of staying up late to watch “SNL” is a rite of passage for generations of teens. The quality can vary, but that’s part of the fun. You can see what your kids find funny and dissect the more topical sketches and news discussed during the “Weekend Update” segment. (And your teens can tell you who the musical guests are.)
Teens are old enough to understand that all the characters on this show about nothing are selfish, rude, and an absolute delight to watch.
—“Star Trek: The Next Generation,” streaming
If your kids are sci-fi fans, this is a wonderful watch-together option. Its futuristic setting allows it to make social commentary on all kinds of issues, including racial discrimination, intergalactic political rivalries, gay rights, and lots more, without being too heavy-handed.
—“Stranger Things,” Netflix
This retro sci-fi mystery is a really fun choice for families with older teens. Not only does it star lots of great kids and teens learning some major lessons about friendship, love, and life, but its plot, featuring creepy government plots, a spooky underworld, and lots of drama, is gripping from start to finish (and just scary enough!).
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.