Parents' Guide to

The Secret Life of the American Teenager

By Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Heartfelt drama tackles teen sex, pregnancy, parenthood.

TV Freeform Drama 2008
The Secret Life of the American Teenager Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 77 parent reviews

age 12+

The Unrealistic and Overly Sexual Life of the American Teenager

I first watched this show in 2008 when I was 13 and I found it very entertaining and was addicted to it. Now, rewatching as an adult, I realize how bad the acting and the story line is. It portrays very unrealistic relationships between teens and their parents- the parents and teens talk about sex WAY to much together and in way too much detail. As a teenager, and even as an adult, I would NEVER discuss sex with my parents in the way these teens do with their families. There are good messages surrounding teen pregnancy, sexual assault and teen dating/relationships but there are other shows that discuss these topics in better ways than this show. I will give the casting director credit for creating a very diverse cast group, which includes characters with disabilities, different races and sexual orientations- especially for it being produced in 2008 when diversity was not as common on television. Overall, your 12 or 13 year old would probably find this show very entertaining and it is overall appropriate in terms of very little swearing, no drugs or alcohol use, but it talks about sex way too much- literally in every episode you will hear the word "sex" a minimum of 20 times. If your child has not learned about sex yet, this show would not be okay for them.

This title has:

Great messages
Too much sex
2 people found this helpful.
age 12+

Amazing show

This is a really great show! It’s both funny and emotional! I don’t know why everyone says it’s so inappropriate, sure there is mentions of sex but nothing graphic. It’s terrific!

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
1 person found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (77 ):
Kids say (171 ):

Secret Life introduces various points of view about teenage sexual behavior and its consequences by showing how different (albeit still fairly stereotypical) teens develop their own thoughts and feelings about sex, relationships, and growing up. It also looks at how the choices they make affect not only them but everyone around them. The fact that this family drama introduces its various (and often controversial) story lines from an upper-middle-class perspective means that viewers don't get much of the real-world grittiness you might expect when dealing with these issues. Although that's not exactly realistic, it does mean that the show's themes are presented in a relatively wholesome, heartfelt context that's both entertaining and non-threatening.

That said, despite good performances by notable actors Molly Ringwald and John Schneider, the show's dialogue often seems over-manufactured. There also are frequently moments that feel didactic, especially when parents and mentors offer contrived thoughts and advice about teens and premarital sex. But Secret Life does a good job of highlighting the pressure that many of today's teens experience while living in a society that seems to glorify sexual behavior. It also provides a foundation that parents can use to start and/or continue conversations with teens about sex, pregnancy, and parenthood. Although the subject matter isn't age-appropriate for young kids, parents may want to watch with older tweens who are preparing to enter junior or senior high school and talk to them about some of these issues.

TV Details

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.

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