Three TV Shows Your Kids Should Be Watching and Three They Shouldn’t

It's getting more and more difficult to find programming the whole family can enjoy together — now, take heart

It’s fall, a time that school is back in session and a new crop of television programs is battling for the attention of families everywhere.

You wouldn’t guess that many of the shows aimed at families today actually are “family-friendly.” All too often, shows meant to be viewed by children of a certain age are completely off base with many of their storylines. And some television channels that are supposed to be kid- or family-friendly are anything but — ask almost any parent of a young child today, and you’ll get an earful.

The Disney Channel, for example, has come under attack for much of the content it airs.

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“We get a lot of complaints from parents about Disney Channel programming in general. There’s too much emphasis on dating and relationships for such a young target audience,” Melissa Henson, program director for the Parent Television Council (PTC), told LifeZette.

What was once called ABC Family was recently overhauled and renamed Freeform, which Henson finds troublesome, considering the channel has “a very adult/teen focus, which is concerning. Sometimes they’ll show Pixar movies and during the breaks promote the teen-targeted shows, which do deal with pretty heavy subject matter.”

“We get a lot of complaints from parents about Disney Channel programming.”

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For instance, “Pretty Little Liars” aired on this former “family” channel, although many storylines focused on such things as a student-teacher underage relationship. In the real world, that would be called statutory rape.

There was also “The Fosters,” in which a lesbian couple raise a biological child and four adopted children. The show won a Teen Choice Award. Then there’s “Baby Daddy,” in which the main male character has a one-night stand only to be shocked nine months later when a baby is left at his doorstep. He decides to raise the girl with the help of two male friends and sometimes annoying mother.

These aren’t shows you would particularly think would be geared toward teens. There are just as many shows geared toward younger kids that still have adult-themed storylines — which are often just too much for their minds to comprehend.

Related: The Future Is All Streaming, All the Time

Given this environment, we’ve compiled a list of three shows to avoid watching with your kids — as well as three you should feel safe letting them watch.

Three Shows to Be Sure to Skip
1.) “Raven’s Home” (Disney Channel). Set in Chicago, the show features Raven and Chelsea, two divorced single mothers who are raising children under the same roof. Hilarity is supposed to ensue when it is revealed Raven’s son Booker has inherited the same psychic abilities she possesses. Raven doesn’t tell her children about these psychic abilities, while Booker is afraid to mention it to any of his family for fear they’ll mock him.

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Although families come in many forms these days, this isn’t the typical family unit audiences are used to seeing, especially when Chelsea’s son seems more the parent than Chelsea herself.

2.) “Andi Mack” (Disney Channel). Andi Mack is a 13-year-old girl living a tumultuous teenage life, with a little help from her two best friends. When Andi’s older sister, Bex, returns home, she is thrilled to find out Bex will be moving back in — but little does she know this means everything is about to change.

Andi finds out that Bex is actually her mother, and the woman she thought was her mother is actually her grandmother. While coming to terms with this revelation, Andi deals with her “love life” as well as a boy wrestling with his sexuality. This is a show sure to cause confusion in the household and the need for complicated (and perhaps premature) chats with the kids.

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3.) “DeGrassi: Next Class” (Netflix). It’s hard to imagine that a show dealing with abortion, sexuality, drug use, masturbation, and same-sex relationships would be targeted to 13-year-olds — but “DeGrassi: Next Class” does just that.

Storylines have centered around such situations as a 16-year-old’s one-night stand that ends in a pregnancy — then results in an abortion during lunch period. The abortion is also portrayed as nothing out of the ordinary. It’s instead shown as an “empowering” move for the teen, who shares her thoughts and experience online for all the world to see. There’s even a character who isn’t sure if she’s female or male — and is later referred to as “they” instead of “she.”

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If you feel the need to take a shower after reading about the shows above, here’s hoping the next three programs will give you hope there’s still good entertainment out there for the family to enjoy together.

Three Shows That Are OK to Watch Together
1.) “Henry Danger” (Nickelodeon). Fun-filled and cheesy, “Henry Danger” is a pretty safe bet.

Related: Even Filmmakers Don’t Want to Go to the Movies Anymore

Henry Hart, 14, must balance homework with saving the world. After responding to an ad, he becomes town hero Captain Man’s trusty sidekick, Kid Danger. Together they combat villains and keep the town safe every day, though it proves to be a bit difficult, since Henry needs to keep his new identity a secret from the rest of the world.

“Henry Danger” is funny, silly and focuses on teamwork and friendships. Best of all, parents can take relief in knowing this show is definitely a kid-friendly program that won’t result in any questions about sex, drugs, or violence.

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2.) “Speechless” (ABC). This family-friendly comedy centers on Maya, a well-meaning but unapologetic mother who loves to be in control and only wants the best for her family, especially J.J., her special-needs son.

J.J. is wheelchair-bound and unable to speak; he relies on technology to talk. He points to letters and words on a special board to communicate. After meeting Kenneth, a school groundskeeper who has a voice like Barry White, Kenneth becomes J.J.’s official smooth-talking aide. A younger brother Ray, younger sister Dylan, and Maya’s husband round out the phenomenal cast of characters.

“Speechless” is hilarious and focuses on family; it’s also groundbreaking. Maya can often be viewed as a crazy and overworked mom — but this offers a true depiction of any mother trying to balance children, work, and life in general. The show has positive messages of hope during difficult times, family and relationships, communication, and acceptance.

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3.) “Small Town, Big Mayor” (UP). If messages of community, activism, and faith are important, then UP’s “Small Town, Big Mayor” is a show to be sure to catch.

John Henry Berry is the mayor of D’Lo, Mississippi, plus a dog catcher, tree trimmer, lifeguard, and firefighter in a town that once boasted over 6,000 people and is now down to 400. The town is on the brink of being wiped off the map — but Berry refuses to allow that. He wants to update the town museum, and have a restaurant and library built.

Most of all, he wants to make his town a place of pride. With family members who are often at odds with his ideas, “Small Town, Big Mayor” is a funny and clean reality show depicting a tight community with strong messages of faith, teamwork and determination.

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