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Should I let my 13 year old watch Shameless?

Quick Answer

Shameless is a very adult-oriented show with a lot of sex, drugs, alcohol, and profanity. Most experts recommend against letting a 13 year old watch it due to the mature content. However, you know your child best. Consider their maturity level and your family values before deciding. Watch with them and discuss the issues portrayed if you do allow it. Establish rules and boundaries.

Is Shameless Appropriate for a 13 Year Old?

Shameless, which aired on Showtime from 2011-2021, is about a dysfunctional family headed by alcoholic patriarch Frank Gallagher. It depicts the Gallagher kids, led by eldest sister Fiona, as they learn to take care of themselves and each other with little adult supervision.

Shameless is rated TV-MA, meaning it is specifically designed to be viewed by adults and may be unsuitable for children under 17. Here are some of the mature themes in Shameless that parents may find concerning for a 13 year old viewer:

Sex and Nudity

There are very frequent sex scenes, partial nudity, racy dialogue, and general sexual situations throughout the series. Fiona has multiple sexual relationships. Other characters are shown having sex, visiting strip clubs, purchasing pornography, and more.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Drug and alcohol use and abuse are prevalent. Frank is an alcoholic and many episodes show him and others drinking to excess. Recreational drug use including marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and prescription pills is also common.


Shameless contains very strong language with the F-word used frequently in nearly every episode. Other profanity, slurs, and vulgar/explicit dialogue are also used regularly.


There are some fights, violent threats, and dangerous situations. Frank often ends up beaten and bloodied. More serious violence includes a character being shot.

Adult Themes

Beyond the sex, drugs, and language, Shameless explores many mature themes that pre-teens may not be equipped to fully process, including:

– Poverty, neglect, abuse
– Teenage pregnancy
– Prostitution
– Mental illness
– Homosexuality and trans issues

Shameless Content vs. Real Life

Of course television, especially a show meant for mature audiences, often depicts situations and scenarios that are more extreme or risque compared to average real life experiences. It’s important to understand Shameless shows behaviors and life circumstances that are outside the norm.

Discuss with your teen that things like excessive drug/alcohol use, casual sex with multiple partners, unsupervised delinquency, and the overall dysfunctional Gallagher family dynamics are exaggerated for entertainment value and shock factor. Make sure they know the show does not accurately reflect healthy relationships, responsible choices, and normal family life.

Should I Let My 13 Year Old Watch Shameless?

Every child is different when it comes to readiness for mature content. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if your 13 year old can handle a show like Shameless:

Your Child’s Maturity Level

Does your 13 year old generally make wise choices? Do they handle mature situations appropriately? Are they emotionally equipped to process complex themes? Mature 13 year olds may be able to view more grown-up content reasonably. Less mature teens may get ideas about risky behaviors. Know your individual child’s judgment and temperament.

Your Family’s Values

Consider your family’s stance on issues like sexuality, drugs and alcohol, and foul language. If certain behaviors go strongly against your values, you may not want to expose your child at this age. Or you may decide to allow the show but have meaningful discussions about your values.

Watch Together and Discuss

Watching together provides an opportunity to discuss issues and perspectives as they arise. Pause to ask what they think of scenarios. Point out consequences of choices. Share your wisdom. Diffuse any notion that unwise behavior is glamorous.

Establish Rules and Boundaries

Be clear about what behavior you will not tolerate or expect to be emulated. Set limits around things like language use, clothing choices, privacy, drug and alcohol use, and relationships. Enforce your standards. A teen testing boundaries is normal, but consistent expectations and discipline are key.

Reviews from Parents and Experts

Here are some opinions on whether or not to allow a 13 year old to view Shameless:

Reviews from Parents

Parent Opinion
Julie R. “Absolutely not! Shameless normalizes behaviors that are completely unacceptable for impressionable teens. Stick to age-appropriate shows.”
Mark T. “I have mature 13 year old twins who watched with me. We had great discussions afterwards about the issues and values portrayed.”
Amanda S. “I watched ahead and chose certain episodes I thought my 13 year old could handle. We avoided much of the graphic content.”
Michael P. “No way! My teens will not watch anything rated MA in my household until they turn 18.”

Expert Opinions

Expert Opinion
Common Sense Media “Shameless? Try shameful. This unbridled look at a dysfunctional family offers no lessons whatsoever.” (Not recommended for under 18)
Parenting Pod “We strongly advise that mature teen programming like Shameless is kept away from young teen eyes. Its messages around sex, drugs, and family are too adult.”
TV Parental Guidelines “While parental discretion is always advised, the TV-MA rating warns that most parents will want to keep Shameless away from viewers under 17.”

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, you need to use your best parental judgment when deciding if Shameless is appropriate for your 13 year old. While most child development experts recommend against it, some parents find value in co-viewing with mature teens. Establish guardrails like only allowing certain episodes or fast-forwarding through graphic scenes. Be prepared to discuss complex mature themes. Know your child, set clear expectations, and don’t be afraid to turn off content you deem inappropriate for their age. The bottom line: you know what’s best for your unique 13 year old.


Shameless contains a high level of mature content regarding sex, drugs, language, and adult themes that make it inappropriate for many young teens. However, with the right setting, boundaries, discussion, and understanding of your own child’s abilities, some parents do decide to allow more mature programming by 13 under supervision. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue. Know your teen, your family values, and trust your parental wisdom. With open communication and the right ground rules, you can make the viewing decision that is right for your family.