The Secret Life of the American Teenager

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Secret Life of the American Teenager TV Poster Image
Heartfelt drama tackles teen sex, pregnancy, parenthood.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 80 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 175 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive messages

The show revolves around teen sex and its consequences presented in a thoughtful way. Later seasons feature themes such as marriage, divorce, and homosexuality. 

Positive role models & representations

The upper-middle-class characters are a realistically flawed bunch and sometimes make iffy decisions. 


Occasional mild arguments. A baby dies. A later episode features an accidental shooting. Sexual assault and child molestation are discussed. 


Topics include sex, virginity, promiscuity, pregnancy, parenthood, and other related issues. 


Words such as "laid," "hell." 

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Very occasional drinking (wine, beer). 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the soapy teen drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager (aka Secret Life), which is produced by the creator of 7th Heavencenters on the consequences of a teenage girl's unexpected pregnancy. It addresses the various ways that teens think about and cope with sex (including abstinence and promiscuity), pregnancy, and parenthood, all from a relatively upper-middle-class point of view. Marriage, divorce, and homosexuality are themes in later seasons. The stories can be controversial, but the heartfelt way the topics are introduced provides a solid foundation for discussing them with teens and even older tweens. Expect some mild language (words such as "laid") and specific references to virginity, Christianity, and the Bible.

User Reviews

Adult Written byAndromeda July 21, 2009

Terrible show with mixed messages, not good for anybody

To be honest, I have only seen a few episodes of this show because it's so unspeakably bad I have to leave the room rather to refrain from speaking my mind... Continue reading
Adult Written byjstanway July 13, 2009
I'm not a prude, but you've got to be kidding. I honestly cannot understand why ABC FAMILY would air this show. The YOUNG teens and adults ALL not o... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bysullysimey February 4, 2009

From a teen who can actually spell, and cares.

I know you all may think that your teenager is an innocent kid, but for crying out loud, get a grip! I can honestly say that about 9 out of 10 kids in my high s... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byNatalia96 May 2, 2011

Unrealistic show that sugarcoats important issues

I used to kind of like this show in the first season. But it's gotten much worse. It focuses almost completely on sex-nobody talks about anything else. Lan... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER explores the choices that today's teens are making about sex and touches on some of the very real consequences of their decisions. The series centers on teenage Amy (Shailene Woodley), who gets pregnant after losing her virginity at summer band camp to Ricky (Daren Kagasoff), a promiscuous teen with a troubled past. As Amy struggles to cope with her situation, she embarks on a relationship with good-guy Ben (Kenny Bauman). Meanwhile, other characters -- such as good-girl cheerleader Grace (Megan Park) and worldly Adrian (Francis Raisa) -- face various challenges connected to their own sex-related views and behavior. Ultimately, Amy's pregnancy affects everyone in ways they never saw coming.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the pressures teens face when it comes to having sex. Is it easy to "just say no"?

  • Aside from pregnancy, what are some of the other consequences that teens face when they choose to engage in sexual activity? What are some of the consequences they face when they choose not to?

  • What messages does the media send about sex and sexual behavior? How do TV shows and movies tend to portray pregnant and/or sexually active teens? Are these portrayals realistic?

TV details

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