When you have kids, it can be hard to carve out time in your day to watch a little TV. A lot of the time, it’s more tempting to plop the little ones in front of their favorite show and let them binge-watch while you revel in the relative peace and quiet.
As streaming services continue to come up with new and exciting content, however, it can be hard to keep track of what’s kid-friendly and what simply looks kid-friendly. If years of watching The Simpsons and Rick and Morty taught people anything, it’s that sometimes adult-themed shows can look an awful lot like something that might air on Nickelodeon. Netflix, for example, adds more and more content with every passing year that’s only meant for adult eyes, but absolutely looks like something that might air on Saturday morning.
In an effort to keep you from enduring uncomfortable parent-teacher conferences, awkward conversations about the meaning of certain words, and/or frantic remote-searching, we offer this list: The shows on Netflix you should never watch in front of your kids.
Co-created by comedian Nick Kroll, Big Mouth is a perfect example of something that looks like it should be for children but absolutely isn’t. Big Mouth is a raunchy animated comedy that follows a group of seventh-graders as they navigate the awkwardness and uncertainty of puberty.
Sure, it’s got goofy-looking characters, and even a few musical numbers. But make no mistake — Big Mouth is unequivocally R-rated. Episodes examine the nitty-gritty of menstruation, sexuality, hygiene, and teen dating. While it often offers thought-provoking lessons about speaking to kids about these issues, letting them watch it outright is the equivalent of tossing them into the deep end of the swimming pool without water wings.
For example, the first episode sees Andrew Glouberman, one of our young protagonists, interacting with his Hormone Monster, Maury, who is essentially puberty incarnate. Maury encourages Andrew to think constantly about sex, fall into blind rages, and enter into nightmarishly ill-conceived relationships. Maury discusses the sexual possibilities of vegetables, punches holes in drywall, and implies that invitations to play travel Scrabble with fellow seventh-graders are brimming with innuendo.
Big Mouth portrays all of these things with compassion and insight — it just does so while looking like a show meant for children. Put the kids to bed, wait at least an hour, and then indulge in its animated antics.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina focuses on a young woman who is torn between her two bloodlines: She’s half-mortal, half-witch, and entirely confused about what to do about it. On the one hand, she loves her high school and all the friends she’s made there, especially her sweet-natured boyfriend, Harvey. On the other hand, she’s destined to attend a magical school that offers classes in necromancy, invocation, and demonology. What’s a girl to do?
Moreover, Chilling Adventures takes multiple lighthearted jabs at Christianity, which might be alarming to some parents — and really difficult to explain to kids, who might not even understand its jibes. Satanists aren’t too happy about the show either, it turns out: Netflix was actually sued by the Satanic Temple for its depiction of a Baphomet statue. From a religious standpoint, it manages to make everyone angry — a rare achievement for any show, let alone one based off a squeaky-clean Archie Comics character.
It is Chilling Adventures’ sexualization of teens that might be most irksome to parents, however. This is a show with a whole lot of teens acting on their urges — sometimes in ritual settings involving complex chants. Even if a parent is fine with an older kid watching this on their own, they might not want to be in the room with them for some of the show’s steamier scenes. Necromancy is one thing, real-world awkwardness is another.
Set in a sword-and-sorcery-style fantasy world, Disenchantment tells the story of Princess Tiabeanie (who goes by Bean), the rough-and-tumble princess of Dreamland. While her fairytale destiny is to marry a handsome prince and unite Dreamland with another politically advantageous kingdom, all she wants to do is drink, fight, gamble, and go on adventures.
Created by Matt Groening, Disenchantment is similar in tone to his other shows, Futurama and The Simpsons. As is the case with those two series, some parents might be perfectly fine watching Disenchantment with their kids, while others might not want to pause and explain jokes about alcohol and one-night stands. While kids will likely get a kick out of seeing the elves in their homeland singing about making candy, some explanation might be needed when they attempt to hang one of their own while gleefully singing about execution.
As a parent, the choice to let your kids watch what they want is up to you. However, if you find yourself wanting to check out Disenchantment and your little one gets hooked by its bright colors and funny voices, be warned: You might end up discussing the logistics of killing someone with a candy ax.
It becomes pretty apparent early on that Black Mirror is not for kids. The first episode does, after all, tell the story of a kidnapper who demands that the British Prime Minister have sex with a pig on live television.
While most episodes aren’t quite as raunchy as the series’ opener, many may have heard it compared to The Twilight Zone over the years. While that’s an apt description, Rod Serling’s original series consists mostly of family-friendly morality tales. Sure, a whole lot of them are scary, but not in a way kids can’t handle. Existential scares are a whole lot different than, say, the discomfort induced by the whole pig thing.
Black Mirror is a show that gets into the intimate horror of a world overrun by digitization. Episodes deal with murder, sex, grief, exploitation, and many more twisted things that can’t be adequately explained without spoiling numerous plots. Virtual realities are used for torture. Internet-enabled toys wreak havoc. Androids built to bring loved ones back from the grave are hidden in attics. Kids have surveillance tech implanted in their brains, allowing parents to censor their little ones’ realities.
It’s terrific, but it’s not exactly kid-friendly. Stick to sharing Twilight Zone re-runs with your children, and save Black Mirror for yourself.
F is for Family
F is for Family is a raunchy, profanity-filled look at domestic life. It’s a great look at family — but a terrible choice for a family night.
Rooted in the comedy of Bill Burr, co-creator of the show along with Michael Price, this show focuses on the Murphys, an Irish-American family living in the suburbs during the 1970s. Whether it’s depicting the loudmouthed dad ranting against his kids, the wife’s get-rich-quick schemes, or the underachieving kids reaching new levels of stupidity, F is for Family captures moments that everyone has experienced in one way or another.
However, unlike a more family-friendly sitcom, this series isn’t afraid to show the darker parts of living the American dream. Feuding with the neighbors, drinking in front of the kids, and straight-up vandalism are all part of the show’s depiction of average American life. F is for Family will do a great job of reminding you of your own family’s foibles, but it might also plant some unwelcome ideas in your kids’ heads.
The Witcher is based on the popular Witcher video games, which are in turn based on a popular series of books. Your kids might, in fact, be more familiar with the show than you are in this age of Let’s Plays, but that doesn’t mean it’s a candidate for Family TV Night.
The series follows Geralt of Rivia as he hunts, fights, and kills various monsters and otherworldly beasts. When his journey leads him to Yennefer, a powerful sorceress, his life of killing for hire is entirely upset — and that’s before the kid destined to travel with him gets into the picture.
The Witcher is one of the most violent, scary, and sexual shows on this list. If those warnings aren’t enough to keep your kids far away from Geralt’s story, perhaps show creator Lauren S. Hissrich’s tweet about the show not being kid-friendly will be enough to convince you. Trust her: You don’t want to have to explain undead monsters, war-time suicide, and magical cults to your little one.
Kids might love superheroes, but not all superhero fiction is for kids. Take Jessica Jones, one of Marvel’s Netflix offerings. The series might feature super-strength, but it also examines sexual assault, trauma, and alcoholism.
The titular Jessica is a New York City-based private investigator. She’s a hard drinker plagued by memories of the car accident that killed her parents and left her with super powers. But that’s not all she has to contend with. Jessica Jones’ first season pits the PI against Kilgrave, the man who used his mind-controlling powers to abuse her for years.
Jessica Jones explores themes that are very important to tackle with children, from consent to post-traumatic stress. However, the show isn’t a PSA and often sees its characters deal with their issues in self-destructive ways. There’s no shortage of superhero content out there that’s totally fine to watch alongside one’s kids — Jessica Jones is, in fact, a rare exception in this genre. Save her story for yourself, and just watch Captain Marvel with your kids instead.
At first, You seems like a love story. It focuses on a young book store clerk named Joe who bonds with people over literature in a technology-obsessed culture. He’s particularly enamored with one woman named Guinevere Beck. Will You tell the tale of their romance?
In short, the answer is no. Despite seeming to be an analog guy in a digital world, Joe is very tech-savvy. He’s able to stalk Beck’s social media and orchestrate meet-cutes as a result of his twisted obsession. And we do mean twisted: Joe kills Beck’s ex, steals her underwear, and spies on her.
You is most definitely not for kids, but its appeal to youth is strong. After all, it’s entirely about social media. Add in some graphic language, violence, and nudity and you’ve got exactly the sort of catnip kids eager to grow up gravitate towards. Make no mistake, however: You is for grown-ups alone. You might wish you had your kid around to explain some of the intricacies of social media, but trust us — it’s better to just Google it yourself.
Sex Education focuses on a group of high school teens as they navigate the pitfalls of growing up, popularity, and, of course, sex. While that might sound like run-of-the-mill teen drama, it’s a genuinely funny, heartfelt series. But seriously: A whole lot of it is about sex.
Those who tune in will be introduced to Otis Milburn, a socially awkward teen who has a lot of questions about the birds and the bees. He’s a lot better-equipped to answer them than most teens, however: His mother is a professional sex therapist. She’s fine with speaking candidly about the topic in front of her son, but consequences arrive when Otis’ knowledge increases his profile at school.
Otis begins to dole out sex advice to his classmates, leading to very difficult-to-explain situations, like a chlamydia outbreak among the student body. Now, parents should definitely educate their kids about things like sexually-transmitted illness. However, Sex Education is still entertainment at heart, and shouldn’t be used as a textbook. Its focus is to get laughs, and it gets them — but you’re better off having a frank discussion with your kids yourself.
Kids often grow bored, flipping through the list of potential shows to watch, and settle on something with a fun title. When it comes to titles, it doesn’t get more fun than Peaky Blinders. Its got a slightly goofy name, and appears to be a cops-and-robbers show at first glance, but make no mistake — this show is anything but kid-friendly.
The show focuses on a gangster family living in 1919 Birmingham, England, just after World War I ravaged the globe. It tells the story of the real-life Peaky Blinders gang that clashed with law enforcement sent over by Winston Churchill. The show is violent, foul-mouthed, and deals with a lot of subject matter that, frankly, some adults aren’t ready for, let alone children.
Just as one should never judge a book by its cover, one should never judge a TV show based on its title. However, that doesn’t mean that this critically acclaimed drama is a bad show. Far from it. It’s worth a watch — just not with your kids.
Hopefully, no parent would ever make the mistake of showing one of Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror series to their kids. "The Haunting of Hill House" and "The Haunting of Bly Manor" are the stuff of nightmares, and "Midnight Mass" is no different. Its horror is a bit of a slow burn, but by the time you reach the final few episodes, things get real dark and violent real fast.
This is a show where people are burned alive, eaten, mauled, and compelled to drink blood — and that’s without even mentioning all the dead cats. Plus, aside from all the gore and horrific imagery, there’s lots of pontificating about the nature of mortality, death, and the afterlife, if there is one — subjects no kid needs to be worrying about just yet.
Of course, if the kids are asleep, "Midnight Mass" is a fantastic show. It explores a lot of interesting ideas and uses its darker moments to drive home larger emotional or thematic payoffs. Hamish Linklater is incredible as Father Paul Hill, and the rest of the cast are great as well. Flanagan has earned quite a reputation for himself as one of the modern era’s leading horror auteurs, and watching "Midnight Mass," it’s easy to see why.
If you grew up playing the old "Castlevania" games on the Nintendo Entertainment System or Super NES, you might see the animated series of the same name on Netflix and assume that it, too, is appropriate for kids. Or maybe you just assume that if it’s animated, it’s probably fine for younger audiences to enjoy. But make no mistake — "Castlevania" is not for kids and, in fact, is one of the goriest shows on the entire streaming platform.
"Castlevania" is really a story about the king of vampires and demons declaring war on humankind, and it doesn’t shy away from any of the darker implications of that. Towns are slaughtered on screen, and the monsters themselves are grotesque and disturbing. There are dark rituals, magic spells gone horribly wrong, gruesome deaths — the whole shebang. This is definitely one animated series that your kids should not be watching with you.
For age-appropriate audiences, however, "Castlevania" is stylish and compelling. The animation is brutal at times, but it can also be gorgeous, and the cast of characters assembled across the four seasons are all interesting and fun to watch. The show excels at big battle scenes, but its best moments more often than not are simple conversations between characters. A lot of intriguing themes are explored in "Castlevania," you just have to be okay with the heavy level of gore to get there.
Dota: Dragon’s Blood
"Dota: Dragon’s Blood" falls into a very similar category to "Castlevania" — an animated series based on a popular video game (that itself is appropriate for kids) designed with mature audiences in mind. It’s definitely not as far down the trail of occult themes, dark imagery and disembowelment that "Castlevania" is, but it’s still far from a kids’ show, with plenty of blood, violence, and sex to drive that point home.
The tone and content of "Dota: Dragon’s Blood" map pretty cleanly onto the adult fantasy genre. It’s not exactly "Game of Thrones," but it’s close enough: dark sorcerers, dragons, war, betrayal, bars, brothels, blood, the whole deal. With a TV-MA rating, the series makes it clear up front that it is meant for adult fans of the video game and animated fantasy in general, not kids.
Still, if you’re looking for a series with similar visual flair to watch with your children, Netflix has some other great options from "Dota" animator Studio Mir. "Voltron: Legendary Defender" and "Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts," or if you want something a little more fantasy-inspired and aren’t too attached to the animation style, "She-Ra and the Princesses of Power" is a great watch for all ages.
"Bridgerton" has a lot of sex in it. Like, a lot.
At face value, the series might look appropriate for younger kids. It has a colorful, stylish aesthetic that fuses Regency-era dress and pomp with more modern touches, such as classical renditions of modern pop songs. It’s not a violent show, and because of the time period it’s set in, you don’t have to worry much about verbal vulgarity or anything like that either. But get a couple of episodes deep into "Bridgerton," and you’ll see that it’s tough to cut around the sex.
To be fair, that’s the point. "Bridgerton" is rated TV-MA, and its various romance storylines are written and filmed with adults in mind. If you go in knowing when and where the steamier scenes occur, of course, you might be able to selectively watch some bits with your kids, like the ball scenes. The majority of "Bridgerton" is appropriate for most ages, and there are even some great younger characters like Penelope, Eloise, and Francesca. But if you attempt this method, it’s definitely best to know the show pretty well going in, so you can avoid any awkward moments of pausing and fast-forwarding.
Hopefully, no one would ever mistake "Squid Game" for a kid-appropriate program, no matter how popular it may be. The smash hit Korean thriller about a deadly underground competition involves brutal reimaginings of some classic children’s playground games, but it’s impossible to mistake the series for anything other than what it is — a dark, terrifying takedown of capitalist greed filled with violent gladiator matches disguised as games.
"Squid Game" is fantastic. It became Netflix’s biggest show ever in 2021 (via Variety), despite the fact that, as a non-English series, the odds were severely stacked against it. And creator Hwang Dong-hyuk and the stars of the show deserve every bit of praise they’ve received. But this is certainly not a show for kids, and you definitely should keep it off and away when younger viewers are around.
Of course, because of the huge impact "Squid Game" had on pop culture in 2021, it may already be well known to many kids. The series was huge on TikTok after its initial rise in popularity (per Newsweek), and lots of things about the show, such as the use of the children’s game Red Light Green Light, have become common knowledge by association. But please, do not allow your children to actually watch "Squid Game." It is not for them. It is for adults, and even then, probably not for the weak-stomached ones.