From Skins To PEN15, Your Binge-Watching Guide To Growing Up

Adolescence can be a confusing time, so turn to these shows for answers

Let's face it: Growing up can be terrifying. Juggling physical and emotional stress, not to mention seemingly world-ending social interactions, can make anyone freak out a bit. But it's totally normal. And luckily for teens navigating adulthood today, there are much more astute resources available at their fingertips than antiquated pamphlets about "adolescence."

No, these days, you've got a whole slew of shows to turn to for some assistance sorting through the complicated and confusing feelings that come with coming of age.

If growing up has you down, don't despair. These streaming picks all feature different ways to navigate everything that makes getting older both difficult and exhilarating.

  • Zac & Mia

    Best to watch if: You’re in an unfamiliar situation looking for companionship.

    No matter how old you are, cancer is a devastating diagnosis. Zac & Mia tackles the disease through a teenage lens, following Zac Meier (Kian Lawley) and Mia Phillips (Anne Winters) as they navigate life and love in an oncology ward.

    Mia is the popular girl in high school, and initially wants nothing to do with Zac, as the pair has little in common. But as they receive treatment for their respective illnesses, they soon find themselves growing together in ways they never would have expected, as well as solace and comfort in one another.

    It’s a tender reminder to give others a chance, because you don’t always know what they’re going through. You may also find friendship (or a lifelong love) when you least expect it.

    Zac & Mia is currently streaming on Hulu.

  • PEN15

    Best to watch if: You miss the awkwardness and simplicity of middle school.

    Remember what middle school was really like? Teenage outcasts Maya (Maya Erskine) and Anna (Anna Konkle) are your average 13-year-olds exploring the depths of female sexuality and puberty in this hilarious streaming series.

    From chatting on AIM to kissing practice with a bedpost, these girls (played by their adult selves, of course) navigate the gross, hilarious, and absolutely real moments of growing up that don't get much time on other series. It’s one of the few series that gives plenty of screen time to young girls who are only just learning about themselves and the world around them, without treating them like an afterthought.

    PEN15 is currently streaming on Hulu.

  • The Tribe<

    Best to watch if: You’re tired of adults screwing everything up.

    The Tribe is an intriguing riff on the standard post-apocalyptic drama. It's as lengthy as it is complex, set in a world where all adults have been killed as the result of a deadly virus.

    The teens left behind must grow up fast, all while living in what is essentially a state of complete anarchy. All of the city-dwelling youth form their own tribes, with names like the Mall Rats and the Locos, in order to adapt to live without meddlesome adults getting in their way. Can they work together and create the framework of a functioning society?

    With today's divided political climate and the uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus outbreak, it's easy to feel lost or without guidance, like you need to take charge since the adults of the world seem to have lost the plot. The Tribe is a sprawling slice of empowerment that proves teens are the future — they just have to take control.

    The Tribe is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

  • Trinkets

    Best to watch if: You have a very small circle of friends with whom you share a bushel of secrets.

    Trinkets follows Elodie (Brianna Hildebrand), Tabitha (Quintessa Swindell), and Moe (Kiana Madeira), three teenage Shoplifters Anonymous attendees. They're all insanely different from each other with varying backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: they're kleptomaniacs.

    The show focuses on the unlikely trio's bond as they grow together as friends while leading completely separate lives in different social circles. Watching these unlikely friendships blossom is a rush, and it's relatable for that very reason, too. We’ve all made friends while hiding our truest selves, after all. Seeing it play out on-screen is undeniably cathartic.

    Trinkets is currently streaming on Netflix.

  • Skins

    Best to watch if: You’re ready for serious storylines with hints of comedy.

    The legendary British teen dramedy Skins is must-see TV if you're interested in hard-hitting issues and heavy topics. The series, which ran for six years, tackles issues like depression, PTSD, sexuality, gender, death, and bullying — all things that teens really go through.

    While the show certainly revels in its more comedic moments, it also features some particularly real and raw storylines and isn't afraid to tread outside the lines of typical teen angst. Each episode follows a different character: Cassie (Hannah Murray) openly struggles with an eating disorder, while Katie (Megan Prescott) discovers she's unable to have children due to the onset of early menopause.

    The characters are just as memorable as the actors who portrayed them; Skins introduced us to future stars Nicholas Hoult and Daniel Kaluuya, who even contributed to the show as a writer when he was a teen, part of the reason the show feels so painfully authentic.

    Skins is currently streaming on Netflix.

  • On My Block

    Best to watch if:You’re into watching a diverse group of friends navigate everyday struggles with a healthy dash of humor.

    On My Block is a celebration of diversity. Set in South Central Los Angeles, it follows a group of awkward high school students from different backgrounds as they get through adolescence the best way they know how: together.

    The crew includes Cesar (Diego Tinoco), who runs with the local gang, the Santos; aspiring writer Monse (Sierra Capri); charming yet chatty Ruby Martinez (Jason Genao); and dorky Jamal (Brett Gray). All have their own idiosyncrasies and endearing personalities, and what’s more, they feel like your real best friends.

    Sure, On My Block filters everything through a comedic lens, but it's never afraid to get deep, whether they’re tackling gang violence in marginalized communities or losing a friend.

    On My Block is currently streaming on Netflix.

  • Big Mouth

    Best to watch if: You’re utterly confused about those weird urges you’ve been getting.

    Big Mouth is as entertaining as it is gross, examining at all the bodily fluids, hormones, and urges that puberty can often bring. In fact, hormones are some of its biggest stars, as it personifies them as hilarious monsters meant to guide the series leads Maury (Nick Kroll) and Andrew (John Mulaney) through the choppy waters of young adulthood.

    And there's a lot to wade through. Big Mouth isn’t for the faint of heart. One character gets her first period, another voices concerns about accidentally "impregnating" a pillow. You’re supposed to laugh at these things, but there are so many situations that you've likely also wondered about that you were too scared to vocalize.

    It's weird, wild, and informative to boot. You just might need to rewatch a few scenes to learn much since you'll be laughing your head off.

    Big Mouth is currently streaming on Netflix.

  • Sex Education

    Best to watch if:You’re not sure how to deal with parents who embarrass you.

    Sex Education deals in the confusing, complex emotions that find themselves attached to the throes of physical passion and the questions surrounding it. It also happens to thoroughly explore having parents who just can't stop embarrassing you.

    Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) has a well-known sex therapist mother (Gillian Anderson). While Otis struggles with understanding and coming to terms with his sexual urges, his mother has a frankness about sexuality that often gets Otis into some confusing situations. After he inadvertently assists his high school bully with solving a nagging sexual issue, however, he opens up a sex clinic with his classmate Maeve to tackle a host of similar problems.

    That opens up the floor for candid discussions of teen relationships, sexual encounters, and several scandalous side stories, all of which make this the perfect watch for anyone with hang-ups involving their parents… and sex, of course.

    Sex Education is currently streaming on Netflix.

  • The End of the Fucking World

    Best to watch if: You’re not quite sure if you love or hate your best friend.

    Meet James (Alex Lawther). He's only 17, but he's convinced he's a psychopath, seeing as he’s looking to kill his first human being. He settles on 17-year-old Alyssa (Jessica Barden), who’s far from an angel herself. While James is initially only interested in taking her life, he eventually finds himself confused as to whether he still wants to slay her or pursue a relationship.

    The pair run away together on a trip throughout England and form an uneasy relationship that slowly blossoms into something serious. Maybe most of us haven't dated would-be serial killers, but we can all relate to the uncertainty of a new relationship.

    For anyone growing up as an outsider, this occasionally awkward adventure acts as a reminder that, no matter what you think, there’s someone out there who definitely wants to hang out with you.

    The End of the Fucking World is currently streaming on Netflix.

Still looking for some additional shows to help facilitate your journey into adulthood? Already an adult, but just need a little help dealing with some extra stress? Try binging some of the old standbys: Friday Night Lights, My So-Called Life, or even Glee. You can always count on teen TV to bring the drama and excitement.