Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

Common Sense Media publishes independent ratings and reviews for nearly everything kids want to watch, read, play, and learn. We never accept payment or other considerations in exchange for deciding what to review or the scores we assign. Our unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the creators or by our funders.

Because media profoundly affects our kids' social, emotional, and physical development, Common Sense Media rates media based on age appropriateness. For apps, games, and websites, we also rate for learning potential. We rely on developmental criteria from some of the nation's leading authorities to determine what content is appropriate for which ages. And research on how kids learn from media and technology informs our learning ratings. Our goal is to give you trustworthy information so that you can decide what works for your family. We know every family and every kid is different -- but all families need information to make great media and tech choices.

Get more information on our 10 beliefs about media, how we review media for educators and legislation that helps kids.

We help you decide: What’s appropriate at every age

For each title we review, we indicate the youngest appropriate age, based on its specific content and overall developmental guidelines. Select your child’s age to learn more:

Right below our ratings, we have a list of clickable content categories with in-depth information on each title. Each category is rated on a scale of 0-5; if no dots are filled in, that means the content is either not applicable or doesn't rate on our scale. If three are highlighted, that means there’s a fair amount of that type of content, and five highlighted dots indicates that there's lots of it. If a category is flagged for concern, it contains problematic or negative content.

We read privacy policies for all digital (app, game, and website) titles we review and do our best to alert parents to major concerns we identify, but we don't currently evaluate the full details of each policy and can't reevaluate policies as they're updated. We don't generally evaluate the digital products' actual practices. We always encourage parents to read privacy policies and terms of service to determine whether they're comfortable with the level of user information being collected and shared.

Is it any good?

Our star rating assesses each title's overall quality.

  •          The best!
  •          Really good
  •          Just fine; solid
  •          Disappointing
  •          Don't bother

Common Sense Selections

Look for the Common Sense seal to find outstanding media that has the potential to spark family conversations, entertain families of all kinds, and have a positive, lasting effect on society.

What parents need to know

This is a short guide to all the essential information that parents need to know to make a decision quickly -- or manage a decision that’s already been made.

What's the story?/What's it about?

A brief summary of what the experience is like. For movies, DVD, books, and TV shows, this is a plot summary. For games, apps, and websites, it's a description of what happens in the course of interacting with the title.

Families can talk about

Our kids are really influenced by the everything they see, hear, and interact with. We offer families discussion starters and offline activity ideas to help them think about and extend the messages and content of the media they consume.

Educational value

We look for engaging, inclusive digital titles with specific learning objectives that are challenging in an age-appropriate way, with learning embedded in the experience. Ideally, they provide activities that aren't available offscreen but have skills that will transfer to offscreen learning. And it's great if they were created with educators and/or are supported by independent research and have extension activities or a parent section to support learning.

Subjects and skills

Looking for engaging games that require critical thinking skills? Apps that exercise creative muscles? Websites that encourage vocabulary building through collaboration? We analyze titles for the subjects and skills they cover, and offer these details in a simple, searchable format.

Subjects include both academic areas and extracurricular activities.

  • Language & reading: Reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English or other languages
  • Math: Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus
  • Science: Physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology
  • Social studies: History, geography, government
  • Arts: Visual arts, dance, theater, music, film
  • Hobbies: Developing areas of personal interest and passion

Skills include key skills that kids need to think, live, work -- and succeed -- in the world of tomorrow.

  • Thinking & reasoning: Logic, strategy, problem-solving, thinking critically and analytically
  • Creativity: Developing novel solutions, making new creations, innovation
  • Self-direction: Motivation, taking initiative, effort, personal growth, learning how to learn
  • Emotional development: Self-awareness, handling stress, developing resilience, empathy, perspective-taking
  • Communication: Convey messages effectively using multiple forms of expression
  • Collaboration: Teamwork, respecting other viewpoints, cooperation, meeting challenges together
  • Responsibility & ethics: Integrity, respect, embracing differences, learning from consequences
  • Tech skills: Digital creation, evaluating media, social media, using and applying technology
  • Health & fitness: Movement, fitness, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, physical and mental health