How We Rate and Review by Age: 11 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for a 11-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 11

Cognitive development: At this age, kids' sense of humor starts to change; they can grasp abstract relationships and double entendres, but they can also be susceptible to naïve opinions and one-sided arguments. Eleven-year-olds are capable of reflection, analysis, and confronting moral and ethical questions ... though they might not be ready for the answers.

Social and emotional development: Kids this age begin to be intensely interested in their appearance, with definite ideas about what clothes to wear, etc. They start to distance themselves from family involvement, as their main focus now is their peers -- both same and opposite sex. At 11, preteens have clear ideas about the importance of what everyone else is doing and can be very dramatic. They can be at risk for developing anti-social behavior as they hover between childhood and the teen years.

Physical development: Many kids this age are experiencing pre-puberty, and some are going through full-fledged puberty. As part of this, girls may have a growth spurt, and hormonal imbalances can trigger strong emotions that kids don't always understand. Sex experimentation might begin.

Technological/digital savviness: At this age, preteens are likely communicating through IM and texts. Although they may already be experts at using the computer, downloading, uploading, writing blogs, etc., they're not necessarily savvy about how to stay safe or act responsibly when using those skills. Preteens need clear rules about acceptable and unacceptable behavior; consequences for violations of these rules will still be effective. Try to keep computers, TVs, and gaming devices out of the bedroom; phones (if kids have them) should be off and out of the bedroom at night as well. Check kids' computer history and be aware of what they're doing. Many preteens will have Facebook pages that parents don't know about; given that reality, it's important to have a discussion about responsibility toward others and about self-reflecting before self-revealing. (Facebook says that you have to be 13 or older to join, but some parents let preteens lie about their age -- think about the implications of sanctioned untruths in the online world.) Privacy is also critically important. Preteens should use privacy settings and not post or text anything they don't want the world to know -- and they should respect others' privacy. Adults and kids should also discuss the ethics of digital cheating, cruelty, and illegal downloading. And as gaming content leaps into the teen area, talk about the violence, consumerism, and sexual and racial stereotyping often seen in games.

What's age appropriate at age 11

Educational value: A deep curiosity about different people and cultures can be satisfied by a variety of media experiences. Look for books, movies, TV shows, and websites that show a diversity of experience in cultures and time.
Positive messages: Preteens can handle more psychologically complex issues like loss, rejection, separation, and disappointment. They can distinguish between right and wrong and appreciate the nuance of dramatic situations.
Positive role models: Kids should be encouraged to follow characters who are good role models -- and to talk about why they're good role models. Ask preteens why what the characters do is right or wrong. Adults should also continue to help 11-year-olds break through gender stereotypes. And, when online, encourage kids to be kind to others, even though the screen may make them feel disconnected from actual people and feelings. Anti-social or discriminatory behavior should have consequences and be discussed.
Violence and scariness: Exposure to violent media content can encourage and increase violence and aggressive behavior. Any portrayal of violence should show the consequences of subsequent pain and suffering, not triumph. Discussion of violent situations can now be more nuanced, as preteens are starting to think in abstract and ethical terms. Still, try to avoid TV shows and movies that contain realistic violent/frightening scenarios (kidnapping, for example), as they may be especially scary for kids at this age. Some light horror may be OK, but it needs to have a clear, safe resolution. Talk to kids about what they're watching, and reassure them that they're safe.
Sexy stuff: Simple kissing and boy/girl social dynamics are age appropriate, but all more serious/advanced sexual behavior should be by responsible adults and have consequences. When kids see something sexual in the media, adults can use it as a jumping-off point for discussions on healthy and responsible sexual behavior.
Language: Mild profanity -- such as body part references like "ass" and "boobs" -- is now age appropriate.
Consumerism/commercialism: Children may enjoy learning more about the tricks that advertisers use to make viewers want to buy their products. Talk to them about lighting, music, camera angles, etc., and even make it a game to find all the ways that the director of the commercial is trying to make viewers want what's being sold. Parents and kids can also discuss the food advertised in commercials and clarify their own family's food choices.
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: No underage substance use/abuse is age appropriate. Any adults abusing substances should face consequences. You can begin conversations about substance use and abuse in the media and point out the differences between reality and media glamour. Now is the time for parents to start making clear what kind of behavior is acceptable in their own family.
Online privacy and safety: At this age, kids are exploring on their own. It's critically important that they understand not to click on unsafe sites that will download spyware and malware onto their computers. They also shouldn't enter contests, surveys, or giveaways, and they need to understand where the privacy settings are on sites they frequent -- and how to use them. Cyberbullying starts to rear its head here, so any site that allows a child to post anonymously must be monitored by parents or avoided altogether to limit potential acts of cruelty.