How We Rate and Review by Age: 6 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for a 6-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 6

Cognitive development: Six-year-olds are developing a firmer sense of reality and fantasy, but they still have very active imaginations that sometimes color their interpretation of the world (for instance, they often ascribe human characteristics to animals). At this age, kids start to become proficient at reading on their own and counting forward and backward, and they're developing a longer attention span -- though they still do better with structured activities than with open-ended ones.

Social and emotional development: At this age, family is still kids' most important influence. But 6-year-olds definitely relate to their peers -- especially same-sex groups. With increased self-confidence, 6-year-olds also begin to assert their individuality and even question adult authority (although they need the reassurance of a reliable adult presence as they start making their independent way in the world). Personal privacy starts to be important, and kids develop more sensitivity to others' feelings. Some kids may start to fear school failure, as well as peer rejection. Clubs and games are popular activities.

Physical development: At 6, kids' motor skills are improved and refined: They develop strength, speed, balance, hand-eye coordination, and flexibility. Frequency and quality of physical activity can have a big impact on the course of their motor development; kids who are active will develop more mature motor skills than those who aren't.

Technological/digital savviness: Now that kids can read and write, the Internet becomes a different world. It's important to either have an adult supervise online activity or to be sure that kids stay on age-appropriate sites. Searching online is best left for older kids, since even with safe search settings, all sorts of age-inappropriate images can appear. Home computers should be located in a central location for maximum supervision.

What's age appropriate at age 6

Educational value: Anything that teaches skills, shares the experiences of similar or different people, or stimulates curiosity in the sciences, the arts, or history is encouraged.
Positive messages: As kids become more independent, anything that models negative behavior and messages without consequences or lessons is inappropriate. But at this age, kids can learn from negative examples. They can also appreciate differences in people without thinking that one way is better than another. Diversity of experience and types of people and examples of gender equality are really important.
Positive role models: At this age, children like to imitate and pretend to be their favorite characters. Adults can help kids understand characters' -- and their own -- positive attributes by talking about similarities and differences between the characters and kids themselves. Meanwhile, it's most age appropriate if characters who exhibit anti-social or discriminatory behavior face consequences for it. Kids will be inspired by great historical figures or by athletes or TV stars.
Violence and scariness: Prolonged exposure to violent content in the media has been shown to increase aggressive behavior. Plus, 6-year-olds still can't always distinguish between fact and fantasy, so they'll process a made-up situation the way they would a "real" one. Avoid shows and movies in which characters use violence to resolve conflict -- but if it comes up, talk about alternative ways that characters could have solved the problem. At this age, it's still best to avoid content that involves serious loss -- for example, of a parent, sibling, or pet -- as well as scary suspense, lots of peril, bullying, coercion, or portrayals of psychological dysfunction. At this age, reassurance for scared children can start to involve simple explanations of how things work and why kids don't need to be scared. (Of course, if that doesn't work, a favorite toy and a hug are still good options.)
Sexy stuff: As early elementary-schoolers understand the difference between the sexes, it's important to avoid hyper-sexualized roles. Media that places emphasis on beauty, sexy behavior, and stereotyped sexual roles isn't age appropriate as kids will imitate, not question, what they see.
Language: No profanity is appropriate. Kids this age learn the words they hear spoken around them at an amazing rate -- which means avoiding exposure to language they shouldn't repeat, especially since they're now starting to understand that there are certain words that are bad to say (though their mental list is somewhat limited and probably largely related to body parts and functions). Name calling with the intention to hurt others may begin.
Consumerism/commercialism: Avoiding commercial programming/product tie-ins will be difficult. Talk to kids about commercials, pointing out that not everything they see in an ad is necessarily true. But they're still too young to understand the "persuasive intent" of commercials. Food advertising can be especially difficult -- let kids know how and why their family's food choices won't be influenced by commercials.
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: None.
Online privacy and safety: All online activities for kids this age should be supervised by parents; absolutely no personal information should be shared anywhere, and all interactions should be pre-set (i.e. no open chatting).