Teen Trouble is not an easy show to watch as a parent or a teen. These kids are off the charts of defiant, self-destructive behavior, abusing drugs, drinking, sleeping around, stealing, destroying property, and intentionally putting themselves in life-threatening situations that cause their parents sleepless nights. Parents call on Shipp out of sheer desperation, and far from having a calming effect, he fans the flames of discord between the teens and their parents. Sure, it's in a supposed effort to air and deal with grievances, but it's hard not to believe that exploiting the family drama has a sensational effect on the show's ratings as well. What's more, Shipp -- who draws on his own troubled youth of foster care, abuse, and addiction -- makes no attempt to hide the fact that he's biased toward the teens, clearly assigning blame to the parents for their kids' actions, regardless of the adults' repeated attempts to help. Yes, he holds the teens responsible for changing their ways in the future, but he's much harder on the parents for the mistakes of the past.
Will Teen Trouble raise issues you can discuss with your teens? Absolutely. The subjects' candor -- from the troubled teens to the prostitutes and homeless people Shipp interviews to try to talk sense into them -- will hit a nerve with both teens and their parents and might have the desired effect on viewers at home. Despite the sensationalism, these are sad-but-true stories of families in real trouble, and their experiences (and Shipp's advice) could help keep your own on the right path. But ultimately no TV show can fill the void of communication between parents and kids, so this series is better used as a tool for opening those lines than as any form of entertainment.