Outside of the fact that they both require oxygen to live, parents and teenagers have very little in common. (If you don’t believe it, just ask your teenager.) Nothing we do or say as adults is even remotely cool or relevant to teens. Likewise, everything teens say or do could be dangerous or, even worse, wind up on their permanent record. It’s no wonder, then, that the generation gap is like Oprah Winfrey’s bank account – it just keeps getting bigger year after year.
Things have become even tougher with the advent of texting, Facebook and any other activity that keeps teens buried in their own world rather than engaging with the people at home who are paying for their meals and cell phone plans. Meanwhile, every expert who’s ever appeared on a morning news show is continually telling parents that if they want to make sure their teens become healthy and productive adults, they must spend as much time with them now as possible.
It’s a difficult dilemma: parents and teens can benefit from time together, but that’s often the last thing they want to do. There is a solution to this problem, however. According to most surveys, the average teen watches up to 30 hours or TV a week. Meanwhile, adults spend around 20 hours or more in front of the tube. Given that, maybe television is the way to help grown-ups and their kids understand each other. If parents spent a few of those hours each week watching shows teens like but at the same time aren’t either horrifying or incredibly boring for adults, perhaps the generations could bridge their gap a bit.
With that in mind, here are a few shows that are ideal for adults and their teens to view together. For parents, it’s like looking at their kids’ Facebook page: they’ll get an idea of what teens are doing with and saying to each other these days. And for teens, it’s the chance to show parents what’s good and what’s hellish about their lives. If nothing else, watching these shows is at least an opportunity for families to get an hour where the grownups aren’t telling anyone to clean up their rooms and teens won’t use the phrase, “You just don’t get it!”
Teen pregnancy, for better or worse, seems to be all the rage on TV these days, from MTV reality shows to this scripted series. What sets this story apart for the others is how it has taken what could have been a shocking premise – how family and friends deal with a teen girl’s (Shailene Woodley) pregnancy – and turned it into a thoughtful meditation that tries to suggest solutions to problems rather than exploit them. ‘Secret Life’ has just entered its fourth season and can at times feel more real than those actual reality shows about pregnant teens.
This new series, which just debuted last week, at first doesn’t sound very relatable. It tells the tale of Bay and Daphne (Vanessa Marano, Katie Leclerc) who were accidentally switched at birth. The error wasn’t discovered until they were in their teens and now, the parents who raised Bay (Lea Thompson, D.W. Moffett) have invited the single mom raising Daphne (Constance Marie) to live with them. Despite the far-fetched set-up, it’s actually very easy to identify with the struggles all these characters face just trying to get along with each other no matter who is parenting whom.
Sure this series built its reputation with made-for-the-Playboy Channel moments like its main characters indulging in a threesome or sharing a lesbian kiss. And there’s not a lot of attempts to take these salacious stories and turn them into movie-of-the-week morality plays so teens can learn a lesson. Still, watching this with your teenage daughter is like spending a Sunday afternoon reading Us Weeklys together. You know you’re looking at something that has no bearing on your real lives, so you just enjoy it vicarious trashy fun.
Like a lot of other teen-centric series, this new drama about a high school girl (Skyler Samuels) who discovers she’s a descendant of an ancient race of folks with catlike powers such as super-speed and hearing might seem to have zero appeal for teen boys. However, there’s enough action/adventure and cute teen girls to keep the guys happy and enough intriguing mythology to hook parents as well. (Not to mention a theme of female empowerment that’s a positive thing for teen girls to make note of.)
It’s hard to find a comedy that gives kids and adults something to laugh at, but this sit-com about a Seattle teen (Miranda Cosgrove) who starts a web series with her friends does just that. It plays more like a primetime sit-com from the ‘80s with a smart, ‘Cheers’-like sensibility. This isn’t the most important show out there for teens, but it’s goofy characters, playful storylines and big-time guest casting (Jack Black and Jane Lynch, to name just a couple) make it the most fun.
If ‘Desperate Housewives’ is quality fare for moms and dads, then this tale of four teenage girlfriends whose seemingly normal lives are hiding all kinds of deep, dark secrets is suitable viewing for their daughters (their sons, not so much). As with ‘Gossip Girl,’ there may not be a lot of life lessons learned here. Still, ‘Liars’ is risqué enough for it to seem dangerously cool to teen girls. Therefore, any parent who watches (and enjoys) it with them may be able to slightly up their cool quotient in the eyes of their child.