Best TV for Girls

Help your kids find TV shows that treat female characters with respect. By Sierra Filucci
Best TV for Girls

Best friends really are the best. For girls and young women, they're the ones who psych you up for fun, admire your talents, help you through tough days, and let you ramble on about your crazy theories.

But if you watch much TV -- from The Real Housewives to American Idol -- you might think female friendships were something entirely different. Throwing drinks in your friend's face, calling her a tramp, or yanking her hair might seem like normal parts of being buds. Even scripted favorites such as Nashville and Pretty Little Liars regularly pit women against each other.

But there are plenty of shows that don't wallow in the negative. By choosing entertainment that sends a better message to your kids, you can proactively counteract negative female stereotypes. Here are our favorite weapons against girl-on-girl hate.

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, 4+ (the Hub): It's super cutesy, but this animated preschool favorite shows girls (or girly ponies) working together to solve problems and sort out their differences in healthy, age-appropriate ways.

Ruby Gloom, 5+ (streaming): If cutesy isn't your kid's thing, this goth take on girl friendship might be more her style. Ruby, Iris, and Misery problem-solve and cooperate in a ghoulishly fun setting.

H2O: Just Add Water, 7+ (Nickelodeon): This live-action drama focuses on three teen girls who find they have magical mermaid powers. As they make their way through high school and its attendant social dramas, the three stick together, showing the true power of friendship.

SciGirls, 7+ (PBS): This science-oriented educational show highlights girls working together to construct or develop experiments to learn about the world around them. Girls encourage each other and have fun together while modeling enthusiasm for science.

Jem and the Holograms, 8+ (the Hub): In this flashy animated series from the 1980s -- now airing on the Hub -- a group of women rock stars plays music and battles meanies as a team.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 13+ (DVD): This oldie but goodie never fell victim to silly stereotypes about female friendships. Buffy and Willow are best friends through thick and thin, and even Buffy's female rivals don't fight her over a man -- but rather over the survival of the world.

New Girl, 13+ (Fox): Jess and Cece are childhood friends who've taken different paths in life. But even though they don't always enjoy the same activities or agree with each other's life paths, they stay loyal and committed to each other.

Tia & Tamera, 13+ (Style): Real-life sisters go through ups and downs as they navigate different stages of their lives, but in the end they're always there for each other.

Parks and Recreation, 14+ (NBC): Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones are hilarious and realistic as friends and coworkers who navigate the wacky world of relationships, careers, and camping trips. Their friendship shows that they can stand by each other, even if they sometimes disagree. That's what real friendship is, right?

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About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more

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Comments (51)

Teen, 15 years old written by jigglethatbum

I am looking for a good show to watch and these people think I am some 2 yr old and want to watch these garbage shows! honestly there is nothing good on tv these days...
Teen, 13 years old written by heycayyy

HOW HAS NOBODY MENTIONED ONCE UPON A TIME? I've been watching it since I was 11. It's a good show for 11-16 yr olds. It's interesting, but it doesn't use sexual/alcohol jokes. The worst it does is say damn like once every 5 episodes
Teen, 13 years old written by MickeyMilkovichBabe

This is stupid. I'm 13 and I watch shows like American Horror Story, Shameless, Orange is the New Black, and other shows the represent sexual themes, violence, drinking, drugs, smoking, swearing and I turned out fine. I watched my first rated R movie when I was 11 and I'm perfectly normal.
Teen, 14 years old written by kv_kitty

Yea, I watch all the shows you just listed and I must reply to all of the parents who replied with such concern. Parents, you're right! Watching these shows aren't healthy to watch! I have a 102 degree fever right now and as I was watching American Horror Story on Netflix, I quickly turned it off because I realized how unhealthy it is to watch it. I don't want my WHOLE LIFE DESTROYED because a simple entertaining show that I love ruined me, made me a murderer, and always gave me a fever. So now I think you guys would be happy to know that I no longer watch any shows that entertain me or that I enjoy in fear that my morals will be destroyed and I will be an unhealthy adult. Hope you're happy.
Adult written by Conscious mom

You didn't "turn out to be fine " yet . Your morals and outlook on life are still developing and it is not healthy for you to watch those shows.
Kid, 12 years old

I'm a girl, and these choices are kind of stupid to me. While all of these shows are good (at least the ones I've seen) NOT EVERY SHOW THAT GIRLS WATCH HAS TO HAVE A FEMALE PROTAGONIST. At least you picked intelligent shows.
Teen, 13 years old written by tomboy23

I agree. I watch action based shows like Smallville, heroes, Arrow, Supergirl, Supernatural, The Flash. Although I believe most of the shows on this list are pretty good, there are some amazing shows that don't have female main characters.
Parent written by MonicaMom

I think I remember reading this list before and "2 Broke Girls" was on it; that was a huge mistake! It appears to have vanished from the list, but "New Girl" is another show that somehow made it onto this list in error. I would never let my almost 13-year-old watch that show -- it's not a show for kids -- possibly some mature 17- or 18-year-olds. I agree, Common Sense Media loses much credibility with these kinds of things. I can't understand why a journalist/movie editor is writing this kind of article -- it should be someone such as an experienced psychologist or educator who is also a parent.
Kid, 10 years old

I LOVE Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I read the Omnibus comics first, then watched the TV show- and I Loved it!!
Kid, 11 years old

I do watch Jessie, Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, A.N.T Farm and Austin and Ally. I find that the one that could go on this list is a tie for A.N.T farm and Austin and Ally. They are pretty inoccent shows that I love and they teach good lessons. They are also extremly funny! (LOL!!!!!) : D
Teen, 15 years old written by Chelsey_Horan_1D

I don't agree as "New Girl" being a good show for 13 year olds. I'm 15 and that show still surprises me with their talk of sex and the alcohol use. I would not reccomend that! Also, Catfish the Show is pretty good. It teaches you to watch out for online predators(:
Kid, 11 years old

It's a great list and all but, for the average me,here's what I watch: American Idol,x factor,the voice,dance moms,catfish the show,some baby shows like my little pony and things on sprout,disney jr,and nick jr,random shows like worlds most dumbest,killer karoke,billy on the street,wipeout,and silly things. I'll probably check out Scigirls or something like that.
Adult written by morourke

Haven't seen an episode of New Girl where they don't consume a ton (by that I mean copious amounts) of alcohol recreationally. Not really the message I want any person with a young developing brain to take in as positive.
written by MVB

New Girl? Are you kidding me? If this is really your recommendation as one of the best TV shows for 13-year-old girls, it makes me wonder if the reviews/recommendations on Common Sense Media are trustworthy. I reluctantly allow my 15- and 17-year-olds to watch this show. The sex is casual, often devoid of any emotional component at all, and the humor is very often crude and tasteless. Many of the themes are much too mature for a young teen. I don't care how positive the relationship is between Jess and Cece, I would never allow my younger daughters to watch this.
written by Amalthea

Actually, you're a "Bromy". I know of a number of men OLDER than 25 - mostly fathers of girls who watch the show - who are die-hard fans. A man I know is even trying to design a videogame targeted to men, but based on MLP. (For the record, I'm a 48-year-old woman who loves watching MLP with my daughters.
Parent of a 10, 11, 13, and 15 year old written by HighTechDad

Let's not forget about the Brady Bunch. My daughters have watched every episode on DVD. It is about family, sisters and friendship, has nothing bad in it, and they love it.
Adult written by skdevore

As a mom I've seen several episodes of New Girl and Parks and Rec. New Girl is definitely inappropriate for young teen girls. This is a show you watch sparingly WITH 16+ and talk about the choices these girls and guys are making. There is alot of one night stands posed in a positive, not a big deal way. There is one girl rooming with 3 guys. Issues I have seen on the show: having kinky sex multiple times w boss, dating a stripper, lesbian couple becoming pregnant (one is an OBGYN), discussion of aging eggs and finding a sperm donor quickly, broken Families
Adult written by skdevore

Lastly, I am also disappointed with this list of shows and CommonSense Media. I've trusted and mostly agreed with your reviews before, but I won't after this. I also would highly recommend Strawberry Shortcake, Minnie's Bowtique (Minnie Mouse), and Horseland for young girls. Shows that are outrageous and immature make for great comedy, but they do not send a positive role model for our daughters. They are comedy because we all say, "that's crazy, I'd never do that! ". However our children don't know what the right thing to do is and watching these shows makes them believe this is the appropriate way to act. Best thing to do is model that behavior in your own life, among your own friends, and leave the TV off!
Adult written by skdevore

Broken families which have definitely damaged the behaviors and attitudes of their adult children. While there is a good relationship between the two primary women on the show, this is not a show I recommend except to show what not to do. Parks and Rec is a better choice for the friendship among the primary friends but there is some bad "mean girl" attitudes and actions among the other women in the show, so I don't think I would list this as a role model show for girls either. There is a lot of immaturity.
Parent written by aimless1

I am surprised to see that Horseland is not on this list. It is a great girl show for ages 4-8. Excellent messages and no boy craziness or fashion emphasis. All the girls work to take care of their horses also. I would recommend getting the DVD of 30+ episodes rather than watching it on Saturday morning cartoons. (it is very inexpensive) The commercials on TV definitely take away from the quality of the show. If you are a horse expert it may not be true to life in that aspect.
Parent of an infant, 3, 3, 5, 6, and 11 year old written by ResponsibleParentOf9

Parent of a 13 year old written by loriklak

Unbelievable to me that you would recommend New Girl as appropriate for young teen girls. It regularly depicts promiscuity/ casual sex for both men and women, and sexist attitudes toward women by the male characters. Very disappointed in your previously trusted rating
Adult written by NorthWoodsMom

My 6yo and 12yo watch H2O: Just Add Water. The CommonSense review is right on except for one thing: the girls hide the fact that they are mermaids from their parents and end up lying to their parents to keep them from finding out. I have watched many episodes with my girls and have discussed with them that I don't like this aspect of the show. Other than that, the show provides lot of opportunity for conversations about how the friends treat each other and how their behavior and other characters' behavior affects their friendships and ability to get along with others. The show is about high school girls, and my 6yo watches because her older sister watches, but I don't see anything inappropriate -- yes, there are boyfriends and some kissing, but it is not a sexy show. A couple episodes were more "romantic," but most of the shows are not. Most episodes revolve around the girls trying to figure out their powers and live a normal life while being a mermaid. My 6yo likes the adventures and -- as many girls her age -- is very into mermaids. Very good show.
Adult written by miclyn03

I'd like to know who came up with this list. I would disagree with most of these shows. While H2O may be a nice show about girls and friendships, there is no way I would let my 7yr old watch it. It is about HIGHschoolers. Why do young children need to watch shows about kids that are beyond their development? My 7yr old doesn't need to be subjected to high school relationships which include boyfriends and kissing. Very disappointed in Common Sense Media.
Teen, 14 years old written by kv_kitty

Because boyfriends and kissing is bad and we should never do it or learn about it, right? Well as a 14 year old girl I can tell that you're pretty protective of your kid, which is good! You don't want them getting hurt or experiencing things too early. But, it could also be bad for your kid in the long run because if you keep up the no boyfriends and no kissing for a long time, she'll probably end up rebelling which is definitely not what any parent would want. You don't have to expose it to them now, but eventually you'll have to tell them about it or they'll learn themselves. Just a little advice, not telling you how to parent or that your parenting is bad, just informing you on what to expect if you keep it up for a long time.
Parent of a 8 year old written by Redjones79

Watch it yourself without the child present and decide if it's appropriate for your child, and watch it with them & discuss it after.
Kid, 10 years old

I saw the word catfight and I'm a boy and I also like critising the author she should right better stuff
Teen, 15 years old written by Maruko-chan-15

Girls fighting with friends: Stupid, yet unfortunately true. Just because some stupid girls fight on TV doesn't mean that ALWAYS happens. I mean I NEVER with my best friend! ("Yeah, right" you say.) Catfights may happen in real life but that doesn't mean that all girls do. It depends on her nature. I'm not the kind to pick a fight with anyone. Even If it's with someone I don't like. But seriously, I don't recommend any of these pointless for anyone.
written by Anonymous

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic isn't on here because the commonsense people think it's bulls**t for little 2-year old girls, not 10 year old girls. But I'm really 14 male and it's my fave tv show, they need to put it on here
Adult written by dogman15

What jp523 and oporst said! "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" is a great show for all kids to watch (not just girls!). /)^ε^(\
Parent of a 4 and 6 year old written by gertdog

I can't imagine why you would recommend 2 Broke Girls. The crude sexual humor totally outweighs the value of any positive messages about female friendship it contains. It's essentially a female version of Two and a Half Men...raunchy and not even particularly funny. I'm not sure I'd ban my teen from watching, but I'd certainly never encourage it.
Adult written by Meg1

As soon as I saw this list I thought of Parks and Recreation! I am in total agreement. It's sad that so few shows DO portray real and healthy female friendships, and it's sad this list doesn't include more shows for teens - but I realize that's because there aren't that many.
Kid, 10 years old

I haven't seen a lot of these shows but I DO NOT let my girls watch iCarly (ages 5 and 10). The kids on that show are mean, cruel and make fun of their "friends". I would NOT recommend this.
Kid, 12 years old

Mabey because girls are mean, backstabbing people. I hate to break it to the world but girls are horrible to eachother, and I don't know if it has anything to do with the media or not, but girls can never get along! There always has to be drama, or cliques.
Parent of a 12 year old written by diaryofamommy

While I may not have a daughter, my son watches a few of the shows on this list like "iCarly" and I find them harmless. 2 Broke Girls is a hilarious treat for me, but not something I'd let an 11-year-old watching, son or daughter.
Parent of a 12 year old written by Big Time Mom

First of all, this column is a repeat of one that was posted last September. I know, because I wrote directly to CSM expressing my concern over one of the choices (never heard back). While in general I am in full agreement that female friendships are portrayed as vicious and backstabbing on TV - and that this is a sending the wrong message to our children - I absolutely have to object to iCarly as being on the list of shows that send a positive message. For several years I banned iCarly in my home because I was disturbed by the way Carly and Sam poke fun at other people. Although I cannot recall any particular episodes, I do remember thinking that their antics bordered on cruel. Recently I saw some newer episodes and it does appear as if this element of meanness has toned down a bit, but since older episodes are still aired along with the new ones, I am still not a fan. I also am disturbed by their being no true adults in the home, and that almost all adults are portrayed in a negative light on this show. Is this really the best you could find for my daughter to watch?
Teen, 13 years old written by Jessie rocks

Yeah. I think that TV shows a litte too much of the "friends" who don't get along as far as girls go. It's no WONDER teen girls feel they're supposed to ditch the other girls so much.
Parent of a 15 year old written by Sassy18

Seriously, I am pretty permissive with my 13 1/2 year old but this 2 Broke Girls show is offensively crude. TOO many references to sexual acts, promiscuous attitudes, and the minorities represented are stereotyped. Terrible show unless you are an adult who finds this entertaining. Would not even want my older teen to watch this if I had one.
Adult written by CaryMom

I watched Two Broke Girls just once and that was enough! I nearly cancelled my cable subscription as a result, simply because there is a risk my 9 year old girl might over hear the trash those two broke girls were spewing! It was raunchy TV at its worst and nothing any teenager needs to be watching. I'm stunned and disappointed CommonsenseMedia would suggest it. Bad call!
Adult written by jp523

I would also mention My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as a good addition to this list, as it is a show centering around friendships within a group of girls, and while there is often conflict, the bonds of friendship always endure through these trials. It also is genuinely entertaining (in most cases), and provides strong role models without being too preachy.
Parent written by MonicaMom

I haven't seen any of the shows except for "2 Broke Girls", and I would not recommend that show! In my opinion, the worst thing about it is the racism. I don't know why in the world Common Sens Media would recommend it at all for anyone, let alone teenage girls. Better get advice about the show from these links instead:
Kid, 11 years old

Good list. Girls off or on the TV are always getting into Cat fights, even over something as silly as a boy. Live your life, Girls!


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