How We Rate and Review by Age: 7 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for a 7-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 7

Cognitive development: At this age, most kids enjoy reading stories and can discuss, write about, and act out what they read. Their thinking starts to become more concrete and logical -- they can easily categorize things, but they still have trouble with hypotheticals and abstract concepts. Humor becomes a big deal at this age as kids move beyond slapstick to jokes to potty humor (and potty mouth).

Social and emotional development: Seven-year-olds enjoy cultivating friendships with same-sex peers who have similar interests. They like to copy their friends and peers and will begin developing strong feelings of loyalty. Seven-year-olds are very rule based and will make up games with complicated do's and don'ts. Clubs and games are popular activities, and school failure and peer rejection are major fears. Family is still kids' most important influence at this age, but they're continuing to assert their individuality.

Physical development: Everything starts to come together for kids at this age – eye/hand coordination, motor skills, stamina. Kids who have already been participating in things like sports, dance, and gymnastics may now begin developing proficiency in those activities.

Technological/digital savviness: As their literacy skills develop, 7-year-olds are spending more time online -- but they won't know safe searching skills unless adults teach them. Expect them to show an interest in social networking on kid-specific sites like Club Penguin. But be sure that they understand how to behave online -- including how to protect their privacy. Handheld gaming devices are very popular -- and expensive. Before handing a child a $250 toy, make sure he or she is responsible enough not to leave it on the playground. Establish rules around portable devices -- from phones to music players.

What's age appropriate at age 7

Educational value: Anything that teaches skills, shares 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 that behavior. Kids will be inspired by great historical figures, athletes, or TV stars.
Violence and scariness: Studies have shown that extended immersion with violent media content can increase violence and aggressive behavior in kids this age. Plus, 7-year-olds still can't always distinguish between fact and fantasy, so they may 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. And even though they're now bigger and more fearless than they were in the past, kids this age can still be frightened by scary content, so continue to avoid potentially frightening stuff (including serious loss, scary suspense, bullying, coercion, and portrayals of psychological dysfunction). Explanations and assurances that everyone is safe work best for kids this age.
Sexy stuff: Many movies and TV shows start to show girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. This is age appropriate as long as the characters avoid sexualized roles (i.e. girls wearing sexy clothes to attract boys). Neither nudity nor simulated sex is age-appropriate, and the same goes for sexual humor.
Language: No profanity or mean language is appropriate. Lots of PG-rated movies and some TV shows for this age use insults and put downs. This isn't age inappropriate -- it's just not very nice. Since media "normalizes" behaviors, our reviews call out rudeness and meanness.
Consumerism/commercialism: Talk to kids about commercials, pointing out that not everything they see in an ad is necessarily true (though kids this age are almost able to understand the "persuasive intent" of commercials). Food advertising can be especially difficult -- let kids know how and why their family's food choices may or may not be influenced by commercials; at this age, you can start introducing a bit more of a nuanced discussion.
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).