A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this frank documentary series -- which follows 14 teen girls through four years of high school -- includes footage of underage drinking, drug use, and sexual behavior that ranges from hugging and kissing to more advanced sexual activities (though no nudity or actual sex acts are shown). Anorexia, suicide, cutting, and teen pregnancy are also discussed. It's heavy stuff, but it's all presented within the context of showing the challenges that teen girls can potentially face in high school -- and how they can empower themselves to both survive and overcome them.
What's the story?
HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL chronicles the lives of 14 teen girls during their four years at Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kan. Filmed between 2002 and 2006, the series records the changes that each of them undergo during their time in the high school community, highlighting some of their triumphs, as well as the many challenges they must confront -- from self-esteem issues to engaging in (and facing the consequences of) risky behavior. They also share their thoughts about their experiences during on-camera interviews, and there are excerpts of brief interviews with their friends and family.
Is it any good?
The series is both groundbreaking and valuable because it compiles four years' worth of footage in a way that lets viewers see these young women transform before their very eyes. It also lets the girls tell their stories in their own words, from when they're eager, nervous freshman all the way through graduation. Because of this, they're able to talk about their high school journey as they're experiencing it, providing some thoughtful -- and at times heartbreaking -- insight about how they see themselves in a world that can be fun, confusing, and sometimes almost too painful to cope with.
Granted, some of the girls don't always make the best choices along the way. Consequently, the series includes some frank footage of underage drinking, drug use, iffy sexual behavior, and other self-destructive acts. But these scenes are shown as evidence of some of the major challenges that teen girls face in today's high school environment. More importantly, they demonstrate what girls can overcome and/or survive in order to build themselves up as strong, empowered women. The show's content may be too strong for very young viewers, but if parents watch it with their teens, it may help open a dialogue and give kids an opportunity to talk about their own challenges.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the struggles that kids face during high school. Are the challenges that teen girls face different from those that boys have to deal with? Parents: How are these pressures different from when you were in high school? Teens: Do you think your parents understand what you deal with every day? Families can also discuss why they think these girls agreed to participate in this project. Do you think they knew what they were in for? Would you do something similar? What do you think some of the challenges were in making this series over a four-year period? Is it ethical to show things like underage drinking or drug use, even if it is "reality"?