Switched at Birth

Common Sense Media says

Family drama's responsible messages are good for teens.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Families cope with stressful situations, bridging cultural and socioeconomic differences to find common ground for the sake of their teenage daughters. Communication is essential to their success, and characters do their best to talk out their problems. The story deals thoughtfully with issues like identity, self-confidence, and tolerance of differences among teens. In some instances, teens poke fun at a deaf character, but the brief exchanges help illustrate the show's positive messages about respect and tolerance. A teen rebels against her parents by painting graffiti and breaking family rules, but in most cases, she owns up to her mistakes.

Positive role models

Bay's and Daphne's parents have different styles of raising kids, but both sets of parents are invested in their kids' lives and want what's best for them. For that reason, they try hard to set aside their differences and find a way to coexist for the girls' sake. Often the teens are the ones who open their parents' eyes to the need for open discourse and attempt to see the situation from different perspectives.

Not applicable

Flirting and a some kissing between teens, along with a few instances of mild innuendo about physical attraction.


Some use of "hell" and "damn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

No underage drinking, although there's some mention of pot and of a teen using a fake ID to buy beer (for which she's arrested). A main character is a recovering alcoholic who takes a firm stance against teen drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this thought-provoking drama promotes family-friendly themes like respect, responsibility, and coping with adversity. Two sets of parents approach child rearing in different ways, but both have strong value systems that they impart on their kids, and they make clear their expectations of them. Expect some rebellious teen behavior (some of which is criminal and goes unchecked), references to drinking and pot, and language ("hell" and "damn," mostly). A main character is deaf, and her struggles to assimilate into a hearing family and social settings raises awareness of deaf culture and society's tolerance of difference.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

From the outside, Bay Kennish's (Vanessa Marano) life as the privileged daughter of an ex-pro athlete, John (D.W. Moffett), and his devoted wife, Kathryn (Lea Thompson), is idyllic. But inwardly, she's always felt a little out of place in her family. Even so, nothing could have prepared her for the shock of learning that a hospital mix-up when she was a newborn sent her home with the wrong parents. When the truth comes out and she comes face-to-face with her working-class birth mother, Regina Vasquez (Constance Marie), and her parents' biological daughter, Daphne (Katie Leclerc), who is deaf, Bay feels as though her world is spinning out of control. Tensions rise when financial pressures force Regina and Daphne to move in to the Kennishes' guest house and newly blurred boundaries suddenly challenge the value systems that each family holds dear.

Is it any good?


SWITCHED AT BIRTH is a thoughtful drama series that explores family relationships, teen issues, and the challenges and rewards of connecting with someone who's vastly different from you. Although the story centers on a unique (and improbable) challenge that two families face, its messages resonate with a much broader audience, and families of any make-up can use the story to talk about how the show's themes of tolerance, perseverance, and battling stereotypes relate to issues they face in their lives. True, the show does gloss over the intense emotional fallout that this scenario would raise in real life, but it doesn't shy away from conflict altogether, forcing the characters to overcome their differences and great adversity to find common ground.

Beyond the main story, there's also a subplot surrounding Daphne's deafness, which gives a candid portrayal of society's response to disabilities and fosters respect for different ways of life. Sporadic language ("hell" and "damn," mostly), teen rebellion, and references to pot and teen drinking are present, but the overall messages of responsibility, communication, and respect are what will stick with teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about tolerance. What challenges arise when you try to relate to people from different backgrounds? What situations have forced you to do so? Why is it important to try?

  • Tweens: Do you find the families in this show believable? Can you relate to their problems? In what ways do the characters draw on their family structures for strength? Do you do the same?

  • How does our society as a whole respond to people with disabilities? What strides have been made to better accommodate people's differences? How far do we still need to go? What stereotypes exist regarding people with disabilities?

TV details

Cast:Katie Leclerc, Lea Thompson, Vanessa Marano
Network:ABC Family
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Switched at Birth was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 16 year old Written bygolfvilla July 19, 2013

Very Discouraging: The main charcter (a minor) decides to have sex with her older boyfriend.

My daughter and I loved this show mainly because I am losing my hearing and it helped us learn ASL together while being entertained. We were both very disappointed at the last episode and decided not to watch the show any more. It has gone the way of most shows on the ABC Family channel which seems to take pride in showing minors experimenting with sex. In the last episode, Bay (a minor) decides to go ahead and pursue her encounter in the bedroom of her new boyfriend who just returned from Afghanistan. Legally, he would be charged as a sexual predator. Very sad! This was a great show. Bay had even asked advise from her half sister (also a minor) who told Bay how great her first encounter was and advised her to pursue her first sexual encounter.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent Written byskylivmom September 6, 2011

Great show for 12 and up with parent discussion

I love many aspects of this show for my 12 year-old daughter. The teens (and parents for that matter) aren't perfect and don't always get along or make the best decisions, but it usually ends up with a great message about tolerance (for the deaf, each others imperfections, or differing parenting philosophies). This is the most mature show my daughter has watched, and it has given us a lot to discuss about decision making. One place where I think the review is a bit off is in regards to the sexual content - it shows one of the moms in bed with a man she is recently dating and one scene involves the 15 year-old main character trying to get her new crush to sleep with her. They don't, but it's because he stops her by saying he "doesn't have anything". Kind of too bad for the middle school set that the main character is willing to impulsively decide to have sex, even though it doesn't actually happen.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Educator and Parent Written bychristian-witness June 29, 2012


Expect some rebellious teen behavior (some of which is criminal and goes unchecked), references to drinking and pot, and language ("h-ll" and "d-mn," mostly).
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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