How We Rate and Review by Age: 14 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for a 14-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 14

Cognitive development: At this age, teens' intellectual powers allow for perception and insight. Their sense of humor changes, and they can grasp abstract relationships and double entendres. While they can be susceptible to naïve opinions and one-sided arguments, they can also reflect, analyze, and confront moral and ethical questions (even if they might not be ready for the answers).

Social and emotional development: Teens tend to have an inward absorption, as they're increasingly aware of their own feelings. They're also intensely interested in/concerned by their peers and what their peers think of them -- from their appearance to their actions (i.e. what everyone else is doing is a huge influence). This will likely coincide with teens' focus shifting away from their family and an increasing tendency to be dramatic (as well as a possible risk for developing anti-social behavior). On the plus side, it's easier for kids this age to make ethical decisions, and they're developing their own ideas on social issues -- which they may be excited to discuss.

Physical development: Most 14-year-olds are smack in the middle of puberty. Hormonal changes can trigger strong emotions that kids don't always understand. Sex experimentation often begins.

Technological/digital savviness: Teens have the ability to handle more complex issues, but they're also trying on different social personas. Their avatars and screen names can express their inner identity issues, but they also dampen consequences and mask responsibility -- and online anonymity can make teens both brave and mean. (Online life can also become highly sexualized at this age.) Fourteen-year-olds know right from wrong, but they have to learn how to apply ethical behavior to Internet life -- for instance, when it comes to uploading video or photographic content (which becomes big at this age). For teens, texting overtakes most other forms of communication, except perhaps instant messaging. Both of those can be invisible to parents, so it becomes crucial to establish a code of conduct for them. Video chat also needs strong boundaries, as do the videos that kids create and upload. Remind teens that they can untag themselves whenever they're identified, and stress that they need to respect others' privacy as well. Kids this age should be encouraged to balance cyber social time with real social time; parents should watch out for screen-addictive behavior replacing real contact.

What's age appropriate at age 14

Educational value: Teens can now glean educational value from less straightforward situations, and gaining an understanding of negative situations can be educational -- especially in an historical context. Continue to expose teens to a diversity of experience, ethnicity, race, and socio-economic situations.
Positive messages: As teens start to look out to the world around them and experience different cultures, lots of challenging content gets introduced -- though teens are also able to think critically and distance themselves from the material emotionally. It's important for teens to become global citizens; learning how other societies behave is a critical 21st-century skill.
Positive role models: At this age, teens may be trying to balance what it means to develop ethical standards with being accepted by their friends and peers. Use situations on TV shows, in the movies, and in the news as springboards to talk about complexities of character. Also, as teens watch more adult content and play more adult games, sexual, racial and ethnic stereotypes will become more pronounced -- be ready to talk about what teens are seeing.
Violence and scariness: At this age, "alpha dog" and "queen bee" behavior is the norm, but things can get dangerous when that tendency is paired with verbal or physical threats -- the way it's so often depicted in the media. The violence that teens see in games, on TV shows, and at the movies needs discussion so that they don't "pose" violently in real life. It's especially important to talk about violent content now that it's so much more difficult to shield teens from it. But adults should still try to keep teens away from anything that pairs sex and violence (unless it's portrayed as destructive, with a clear pro-social message). And while many teens love a good scary movie, not all scares are created equal: Slasher films will still scare most kids this age (for good reason!).
Sexy stuff: At this age, many teens have matured physically, and some have become sexually active. They can understand a range of sexual behavior, from normal to violent, so it's critical to talk with them about what they see and think, even though it can be a tough conversation. The media normalizes all sorts of behavior -- from suggestive dress to sexual talk to sex itself; try to steer kids this age away from content that pairs sex and violence or that stereotypes either men or women's sexual roles. Because the whole topic of sex itself can be uncomfortable for teens, sexual humor also really comes into play now.
Language: Teens try out many forms of rebellion; one of the simplest has to do with language they know will drive adults (especially their parents) crazy. They may write it in their texts, post it on their profile pages or blogs, or listen to music with raw lyrics. Each family has different rules about swearing, but it's important for parents to set them. Be sure to explain the difference between cursing and hate speech or anything that demeans others.
Consumerism/commercialism: Adults can help empower teens with media literacy tools to understand advertisers' tricks of the trade. Point out product placement in movies, TV shows, and games. Make sure that teens don't click on free online contests or giveaways -- both of which are omnipresent on teen sites -- since they scrape personal information that can be used to target teens with ads (some are also are full of spyware and malware).
Drinking, drugs and smoking: At this age, the media that teens want to consume becomes saturated with images of smoking, drinking, and substance abuse. Talk to teens about how cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs are portrayed in movies and on television as glamorous, rather than realistically. Discuss how many teens start smoking because of media's influence.
Online privacy and safety: Teens live much of their lives online and on their mobile phones. They should take personal privacy -- and the privacy of others -- very seriously. They should always use the maximum privacy settings on sites they visit, change their passwords regularly, and stay away from downloads that potentially carry malware and spyware (pornography and gaming sites are particular offenders).