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What Parents Should Know Before Letting Their Kids Watch Breaking Bad

One of the quintessential hallmarks of AMC's "Breaking Bad" is the emotional roller coaster — complete with non-stop tension building — the series takes viewers on. In addition to telling a concise story about transformation, the drama also explores a wide range of themes including guilt, moral ambiguity, the malaise of everyday life, hypocrisy, power, and much more across 62 episodes. The characters range from the elderly to the middle-aged, and even young adults all caught up in the behavior the title alludes to.

This thematic material makes the show popular viewing for both adults and teens alike, but there are some things parents should know before allowing their kids to watch the program. It is a show primarily about crime, and this includes drug dealing, manufacturing, and hardcore drug abuse, including an intense scene of overdose late in Season 2. Largely because of this content, Common Sense Media gave the crime drama a 17+ rating.

But it's not just the drugs, homicide, strong language, and adult-oriented scenes parents need to be aware of. "Breaking Bad" is a searing, intense TV drama of the highest order, and its aesthetic and storytelling may also disturb children.

Parents should exercise caution when showing Breaking Bad to children

On the surface level, "Breaking Bad" is about a retiring, quiet high school chemistry teacher who decides to start cooking crystal meth once he receives a lung cancer diagnosis. But like "The Sopranos," "The Wire," and "Mad Men," it is about the moral gray areas that exist within people in a sometimes cruel and fast-paced world. Some of the greatest episodes of the program are rooted in tragedy and emotionally devastating moments. 

Nearly all of the supporting characters also "break bad" in their own ways, be it through picking up old vices, stepping out of their marriage, shoplifting, going on power trips, greed, etc. In addition to moments of startling violence, the series also deals with heavy themes of what it means to be a flawed human being. Children may find these warts-and-all levels of detail disturbing just as they would the language or violent material.

As featured in HuffPost, Common Sense Media added further details beyond the content to caution parents about the tone of the program. The publication shared, "But the core of the show is about moral ambiguity, the choice between right and wrong, and, to some extent, love. These are all themes teens are naturally curious about exploring." Therefore, it is up to parents to decide if their child should be exposed to this level of realism, or if when combined with the mature content, the show may be too much for them.