Some parents think kids already have too much screen time. But binge-watching a good TV series is a fantastic way to spend time with your teen and spur meaningful conversation. Here’s my list of the best Netflix shows to watch with your teens that are not excessively violent or sexual in nature. (Because who wants to watch that with their teen? Awkward.)
If you want to bond and start a conversation
13 Reasons Why: Obviously this was going to make my list. This popular Netflix original tackles intense topics including bullying, rape and suicide. The show drags a bit in the beginning, but stick with it because it gets much better. Its scenes are gut-wrenching for parents, but don’t let your teen watch it alone – 13 Reasons Why will definitely open a door to important conversations. 2 seasons. (I can only recommend the first season. The second was overkill and excessively disturbing, in my opinion.)
Atypical: This delightful show tells the story of a teen boy on the autism spectrum who has decided he’s ready for dating. Following his journey of discovery (and his family’s reactions) is funny, poignant and sometimes cringy. One season.
Glee: Kids from various social groups come together in the high school glee club and deal with everything from teenage pregnancy to disabilities to homosexuality. A must-see series, Glee is the perfect springboard to discussing many sensitive topics with your kids. And the music! It’ll give you all the feels, and also educate your teen who doesn’t appreciate when you tune in to “80s on 8” on Sirius XM radio. 6 seasons.
Everything Sucks: Boy likes girl, girl thinks she might be gay, but goes out with boy anyway. This is an endearing, coming of age teen drama that parents and teens will both enjoy. One season.
Black Mirror: Watch season three, episode one – “Nosedive.” A young woman tries to work her way up the social ladder in a world where jobs and opportunities are based on “ratings” on a social media platform. While I can’t recommend all of Black Mirror for teens, “Nosedive” is a must-see in our social media-obsessed world. Black Mirror episodes are each completely different stories, so you can watch them in any order and you won’t be missing anything. Other episodes teens might enjoy include San Junipero, Hang the DJ, and USS Callister. 4 seasons.
If you want to laugh
The Good Place: Due to a name mix-up, a woman finds herself in “the good place” (heaven) when she was actually a pretty rotten person during her time on Earth. She tries to become a good person so she can stay. This show is laugh-out-loud funny and might even spark some moral and philosophical discussions! 2 seasons.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy was held in a bunker by a cult leader for 15 years. Now she’s out, she’s 29 years old, and she’s moved to New York City! Hilarity ensues as Kimmy learns about life, love, and the world around her. And her roommate Titus is one of the best characters in comedy today, in my opinion! 4 seasons.
If you like nostalgia
Freaks and Geeks: “Mathlete” Lindsay falls in with the wrong crowd while her younger brother tries to get through his freshman year. I was once the smart girl who hung out with the stoners to rebel, so this series has a special place in my heart. (It still hurts me that it had only one season.) Your teen will probably enjoy recognizing the young James Franco, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel. One season.
Stranger Things: A supernatural D&D-type underworld, a government conspiracy, and a group of kids learning lessons about friendship, trust and loyalty. Stranger Things is as awesome as it gets. Bonus for parents: You will, like, totally love the 80’s nostalgia! Also? Winona Ryder! 2 seasons.
Once Upon a Time: Fairy tale characters are trapped in the real world by the Evil Queen’s spell. This show cleverly weaves just about every fairy tale into one real-life story. It’s captivating and a whole lot of fun. 5 seasons. (I can only highly recommend the first couple seasons of this show. After that it goes downhill a bit and is even confusing at times. But your mileage may vary.)
If you don’t mind a little blood
Santa Clarita Diet: I like to call this a more family-friendly version of The Walking Dead. It’s a comedy – there’s no apocalypse or doomsday scenario. Drew Barrymore plays Sheila, a Santa Clarita real estate agent who becomes a zombie but can still live a relatively normal life. Pair her with Timothy Olyphant as her husband and you’ve got comedy gold. It’s hysterical watching them, along with their teen daughter and the boy-maybe-boyfriend next door, trying to navigate Sheila’s newfound desire for brains and other body parts. Even the bloody scenes are comical. 2 seasons.
The Vampire Diaries: Teens with virtually no parental supervision meet (and become) vampires, witches and werewolves. Seriously, these kids are doing everything you don’t want your teens to do – which makes it a great show to watch with your teens. Yes, there is blood, alcohol, and mild sexual connotations, but ultimately this is a story of two immortal brothers, their love for each other, and their quest to find good in one another. 8 seasons.
The Walking Dead: Survivors learn to navigate a brave new world after a zombie apocalype. Some parents may find this show too gorey for their teens. But if they can handle the regular knifing to the zombie brain and the occasional gut-spilling, The Walking Dead is a superb drama about human nature and survival. This show has spawned lots of intense conversations with my kids of the “what would you do?” variety. 8 seasons.