A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show intends to entertain rather than to educate, but there are standout messages against peer pressure and bullying.
Bullying and peer pressure are explored from the perspectives of numerous characters, showing viewers how this kind of behavior affects every part of a group. The popularity queen manipulates and blackmails her peers for their loyalty, and many follow suit for a sense of power by association. Others dissent in small ways, whether befriending Emily's victims, speaking out against her behavior, or simply steering clear of the drama. The content touches on social issues such as feeling excluded and wanting to be part of the "in" crowd in a thoughtful way, but there's a lot of negative behavior that helps illustrate the messages.
Positive Role Models
Emily uses fear and manipulation to ensure her lofty popularity, and she excludes some peers (even those who have been friends in the past) to maintain a certain prestige. Her loyal E-Girls usually do her bidding without question, but there are a couple whose own values or life situations cause them to question Emily's actions, particularly when her selfishness threatens the success of the dance troupe. On the other hand, Michelle's strong team mentality benefits the group, even as Emily attempts to sabotage her. Adults seem aware of the power struggle at play but unwilling to step in to help unless it affects the team's performance. A diverse cast includes boys and girls as well as a variety of ethnicities. Some characters are LGBTQ and are represented naturally and positively.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some flirting between teens. A boy's obsessive and unrequited crush on the popularity queen is a frequent topic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Next Step is a reality-style drama series that deals thoughtfully with social issues such as status, bullying, and peer pressure. A manipulative social queen persuades others to sabotage a sympathetic new girl's attempts to fit in, and, although it doesn't always sit well with everyone, teens aren't quick to stand against the tide. The in-crowd lives by a set of rules (literally -- they refer to them by number) that upholds their privilege by excluding everyone else, even when it means severing existing friendships. That said, the fact that the show sets a stage of such drastic social inequality yields shining examples in those who eventually shrug off the pressure and do what's right by deserving characters. Because there's no sex, drinking, or violence, this show is geared toward kids as well as tweens, but be sure yours can separate the good from the bad in the teens' relationships with each other.
Is It Any Good?
THE NEXT STEP is a scripted drama series filmed like a reality show, with a constant back-and-forth between observational segments and tell-all confessionals with individual characters. Given that it centers on two highly charged subjects -- teen relations and competitive dance -- it's never lacking drama, which bodes well for drawing in young viewers. The show shirks most iffy content that some other teen-centered series sensationalize, so you won't have to worry about allusions to sex, teen drinking, or strong language of any kind. What's more, many of the characters emerge as decent role models either through their devotion to and passion for dance or through some pretty strong mettle in standing up to strong peer pressure.
And, speaking of peer pressure, The Next Step's most striking quality is the obtrusive presence of an unapologetic mean girl in Emily, who uses her social status to dominate her peers. She's scheming and cruel for purely selfish reasons, and she uses manipulation and feigned affection to control her friends, which wins over several of the characters at one point or another. But, although her actions play out like a how-to book on bullying, they do serve an important purpose in posing moral dilemmas that may look familiar to kids. Not all the characters manage to rise above the social pressure, but, when one does, it's an example that's worth holding up to your kids.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.