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Tween TV That's Actually Good
Serving certain age groups seems to be a no-brainer for TV studios. There are social-emotional skill-builders for preschoolers, literacy-strengtheners for kindergartners, scientific discovery for middle schoolers, and sophisticated dramas for teens. But for tweens who've outgrown Peppa Pig but aren't yet ready for Pretty Little Liars, most shows remain firmly in the territory of talk-to-the-hand, eye-rolling, and mean-girls.
However, a new trend toward smart, funny, quality programming for tweens is changing the equation. Shows with over-the-top acting and less-than-positive messages are beginning to share the schedule with programs offering tweens enough of an edge to make them feel a little more grown-up, along with lessons on character that use subtlety to make a point and role models you'll be happy to see them emulate. Check out these cool new picks:
The Loud House, age 6+, Nickelodeon
Nick's runaway hit series is also one of its best, depicting a large family (OK, a huge family) and the challenges the lone boy, Lincoln Loud, faces as he deals with his 10 sisters and their foibles.
Milo Murphy's Law, age 6+, Disney XD
From the creators of the beloved Phineas and Ferb comes Milo Murphy, the unluckiest kid in the world (gleefully voiced by "Weird Al" Yankovic). Taking the new kid in school under his wing, Milo faces constant calamity with a positive attitude, and tweens will be tickled by his misadventures, otherwise known as getting through a normal day.
Project MC2, age 7+, Netflix
Real-life mathematician and actress Danica McKellar helped create this series about a group of tween girls who also happen to be superspies. Using their STEM skills to foil plots, this crew is all about problem-solving with style.
Voltron: Legendary Defender, age 8+, Netflix
Tweens who aren't ready for the often violent and sexual world of anime will be totally satisfied with this family-friendly gem. Based on the classic '80s cartoon, it has a deep sci-fi backstory, lots of action, and just enough comedy, plus a team of devoted friends working together for the greater good.
We Bare Bears, age 8+, Cartoon Network
This delightful series about three media-savvy bear brothers trying to make their way in a pastel-colored techie San Francisco is a great choice for the whole family. Tweens will love the bears' charming antics as they try to fit in with humans, while parents will appreciate the gentle vibe and jokes for folks of all ages.
Legendary Dudas, age 9+, Nickelodeon
When super-smart younger brother Sam skips sixth grade and ends up in the same class as his older brother, Tyler, there's understandably a lot of tension. But the siblings work it out with humor and the help of loyal friends. A diverse supporting cast of lovably kooky but decidedly not annoying kids rounds out this quirky, thoughtful series.
Andi Mack, age 10+, Disney Channel
This sharp sitcom is about a 13-year-old girl with a regular life and a pretty unique family (she just found out her sister is really her mom!). It's fresh, funny, diverse, and honest, and tweens will love Andi's friend group and their adventures navigating school, crushes, and complex family issues.
Black-ish, age 11+, ABC
For older tweens, Black-ish is a fantastic sitcom about an African-American family that's packed with positive messages while it tackles some big questions. Cute, funny, and fresh, it comes on with gentle sitcom plotlines, but wraps powerful political and social commentary into its jokes, which open doors for conversations about race, class, and family relationships.