How We Rate and Review by Age: 10 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for a 10-year-old?

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 age 10

Cognitive development: At this age, 10-year-olds are able to think more abstractly and have a good command of reading and writing. They understand and can interpret intentions, and they can follow several storylines simultaneously.

Social and emotional development: Ten-year-olds seek out friends with similar interests and personalities -- in fact, they can be downright tribal, with social groups dividing into defined personalities. As kids develop more mature awareness of others' feelings, they use this understanding in both negative and positive ways. At this age, the importance of popularity gets really strong, bringing social hierarchies into the mix. And it's not only the popular kids who are the focus of attention; older kids are also admired and idolized.

Physical development: Puberty can begin in some kids this age. And some girls may start a growth spurt, getting taller and heavier. With all of this comes increased body consciousness.

Technological/digital savviness: At this age, social pressures through online and mobile life begin to increase. Preadolescents have strong digital skills, which helps when it comes to school work and following specific interests but also broadens the potential for online or mobile abuse and humiliation of others -- as well as privacy violation. Adults should establish consequences for any abuses. Other challenges at this age:

  • Kids are still too young for social networks like Facebook, but that doesn't mean that they aren't sneaking on. Make sure kids understand that they need to protect their privacy -- and honor others' privacy.
  • If kids have access to the Internet, instant messaging starts fast and furiously. Texting also starts. Since these digital discussions can disappear with the touch of a button, make sure to talk to your kids about your rules for what is and isn't acceptable. Remind kids that anything can go viral -- photos, videos, texts.
  • Piracy becomes a factor as kids learn about downloading.
  • Expect to deal with the challenge of multiple digital devices operating simultaneously.
  • Kids will push to age up their game play, but titles should still be age appropriate.
  • With budding sexual awareness, online pornography becomes a reality as curious kids search out what boys and girls look like.

What's age appropriate at age 10

Educational value: With increased moral understanding and a well-honed sense of drama, pre-adolescents learn from media that offers many diverse experiences -- positive and negative. They can identify with characters in different situations and thus can immerse themselves in other times and cultures.
Positive messages: Preteens can learn from both positive messages and negative ones -- as long as there are clearly defined consequences. They can draw their own conclusions based on the situations in media but still need help understanding situations with nuanced good and evil.
Positive role models: Ten-year-olds can be greatly inspired by acts of heroism, kindness, and achievement. They're trying to figure out their identities, so they easily identify with positive characters. Negative role models who suffer consequences for their behavior are age appropriate.
Violence and scariness: Any portrayal of violence should show the consequences of subsequent pain and suffering, not triumph. At this age, preteens can deal with non-abusive emotional conflict -- such as divorce or the loss of a pet or parents -- but scenes of anger, bullying, loyalty, and moral issues all require resolution. TV shows and movies that contain more realistic violent/frightening scenarios (kidnapping or torture, for example) may be especially scary for kids at this age. Video game violence that involves first-person shooting and blood isn't age appropriate, nor is anything with sexual violence.
Sexy stuff: Sexual humor starts up in earnest (as well as sexual put-downs), so media with that kind of content will have undue influence, as it "normalizes" age-inappropriate interplay. Likewise, as increased body awareness becomes an issue, preteens should steer clear of adult sexual portrayals; 10-year-olds will imitate and "pose" and not necessarily understand the implications of their behavior. Nudity, simulated sex, and scenes that portray girls as sex objects aren't age appropriate. In their quest to grow up quickly, preteens often want to see PG-13-rated films with lots of sexual talk and content -- most of which definitely isn't age appropriate for kids who don't really have related life experience.
Language: Preteens will experiment with cursing, but only mild profanity such as "hell," "damn," "butt," and "pee" is appropriate. Media that includes put-downs and insults likewise isn't suggested for this age, since kids copy what they see and assume it makes them more powerful and "grown up."
Consumerism/commercialism: Preteens take comfort in looking cool -- and that means they often associate positive emotions with certain brands. It's a good idea to point out strategic product placement and help kids learn more about the tricks that advertisers use to make viewers want to buy their products. Talk to them about lighting, music, camera angles, etc. Parents and kids can also discuss the food advertised in commercials and clarify their own family's food choices.
Drinking, drugs and smoking: Any drug or drinking use should have negative consequences. Humor associated with being drunk or high isn't age appropriate. Any substance use should be in the background, conducted by responsible adults in social situations, and not done to excess.
Online privacy and safety: By age 10, kids are online independently, and many have mobile phones. Discuss safe sites, safe search, and the importance of privacy settings. Make sure no personal information -- address, age, phone numbers, passwords -- is shared. Tell kids to steer clear of contests, illegal downloads, and other sites that are full of spyware and malware.