How We Rate and Review by Age: 0-2 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for 0-2?

The way our kids consume and create media profoundly affects their social, emotional, and physical development. That's why, when we make assessments about age appropriateness, we rely on developmental criteria from some of the nation's leading authorities to determine what content and activities are best suited for each age and stage. Below you will find the developmental guidelines we use in establishing our age ratings and recommendations. But even as we rely on experts, we know that all kids grow and mature differently. Our age-based reviews and ratings are a guide -- but ultimately, you're still the expert when it comes to your kids.

What's going on at ages 0-2

Cognitive development: Babies and toddlers use all five senses to explore and learn about their world. They enjoy repetition -- in activities, songs, and books -- and they're fascinated by figuring out cause and effect. By the time they're 2, toddlers start engaging in simple pretend play and enjoy naming familiar objects and animals. Their attention spans are limited, and they jump from activity to activity but are mesmerized by the television, apps, and anything that has bright colors and distinctive noises. Kids this age love being read to and will imitate actions seen at another time and place. They also scare easily, and because they can't readily tell the difference between what's real and what's fantasy, they can be as scared of something pretend as something real. During toddlers' first years, language is all receptive: Infants hear what others say, they're learning to assign meanings to words, and they babble in ways that increasingly mimic the sounds of their native language. And toward the second half of their second year, toddlers will start a "word spurt" during which their vocabulary grows exponentially.

Social and emotional development: By the time they turn 1, toddlers can understand others' basic emotions and have developed strong attachments to their regular caregivers. They also tend to fear strangers and unfamiliar places and objects. Over the course of their second year, they'll play alone or next to other children (known as "parallel play"). Toddlers often have difficulty sharing and trouble with rules and can experience rapid mood shifts. They enjoy attention from adults and are very egocentric.

Physical development: By the end of their first year, babies move around on their own -- crawling, cruising, or even taking their first tentative steps. They can also hold and manipulate objects, albeit awkwardly. By the time they're 2, toddlers move from crawling to walking to running. They can stack blocks and scribble, and although they're still awkward in their movements, they can grasp objects well.

Technological/digital savviness: Infants and toddlers may be mesmerized by screens, but they lack the physical dexterity to manipulate anything complex. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time -- including smartphones and computers -- for toddlers. That said, realistically, it's hard to keep them away from screens. Remember: They're sponges, learning about the world from everything they come in contact with. So it's best for them if they engage with people rather than screens.

What's age appropriate at ages 0-2

Educational value: For toddlers, choose media that helps them build an understanding of basic vocabulary and numbers. Toddlers will memorize songs and words, but just because they can say something doesn't mean they know what it means -- so it's best to select media that teaches simple messages.
Positive messages: Because toddlers are sponges, it's best to choose media that older with pro-social messaging.
Positive role models: It's best for babies and toddlers to be exposed to people of different backgrounds through books, music, and images that celebrate diversity.
Violence and scariness: None. Also nothing emotionally intense.
Sexy stuff: None.
Language: No profanity or aggressive or threatening speech is appropriate. Since kids learn the words that they hear spoken around them, don't expose them to anything you don't want them repeating.
Consumerism/commercialism: Avoid commercial programming including product tie-ins; kids this age are too young to understand the "persuasive intent" of advertising.
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: None.
Online privacy and safety: This isn't really an issue at this age, since infants and toddlers can't read or write. That said, parents, be aware of what you're posting online about your children, since anything you post can travel far and wide and end up in unintended hands.