What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there’s little reason to fret about this benign comedy series that centers on friends who lean on each other to navigate an uncertain social environment. The characters’ outsider identity can be related to kids’ own troubles with their peers, and with some parental guidance, there are positive messages here about self-confidence and sticking to personal values. An innocent crush gives way to some giddy flirting, and there’s enough potty humor (farting and the like) to fulfill kids’ need for this guilty pleasure, but other than that, parents can rest assured that these characters face realistic consequences for misbehavior and find strength in knowing that standing up for themselves can keep would-be bullies at bay.
What's the story?
Musical prodigy Chyna Sparks (China Anne McClain) is excited to be starting high school ahead of schedule, thanks to her place in the prestigious Advanced Natural Talents (A.N.T.) program, but she quickly learns that when you’re 11, rubbing elbows with more seasoned teens isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While most of the students merely tolerate the A.N.T.s, a few of them -- like popularity queen Lexi (Stefanie Scott) -- go out of their way to make the A.N.T.s' existence miserable. Chyna's older brother Cameron’s (Carlon Jeffery) lack of enthusiasm over having his talented little sister on his turf complicates their relationship as well. But when the going gets tough, Chyna can count on her new A.N.T. Farm friends, Olive (Sierra McCormick) and Fletcher (Jake Short), to have her back.
Is it any good?
A.N.T. FARM is a funny and sweet, if not remarkable, addition to the line-up of Disney’s tween-friendly shows. Kids will empathize with Chyna’s desire to be accepted by her school peers, and the repercussions of her attempts to force herself into their good graces are close enough to realistic (being grounded after sneaking out to a party, for instance) that they send worthwhile messages about respecting family rules. What’s more, the show also brings sibling relationships to the forefront with Cameron’s unrest over his sister’s constant presence in his life, so there’s good opportunity to relate the characters’ experiences to those of your kids.
As for the content, expect a smattering of bathroom humor to keep things light, plus some age-appropriate flirting among 11-year-olds. Even the bully who’s central to the tweens’ social struggles isn’t completely unlikable, although her actions do encourage discussions with kids about handling similar situations.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about bullying. What are some of the different forms that bullying can take? Have you ever been the victim of or witness to physical or verbal bullying? How did it make you feel? How does technology like the Internet and cell phones change the face of bullying?
Kids: Have you ever felt out of place in a social setting? If so, when? How does it affect your self-confidence? What are some coping mechanisms for dealing with these situations? How does having friends around change your reaction?
Kids: What are some of your talents? How do you cultivate your interest in these areas? What goals do you set for yourself with regard to them? Do you see yourself using these talents in a career later in life? If so, how?