How We Rate and Review by Age: 9 Years

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

What's age appropriate for a 9-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 9

Cognitive development: At this age, kids can make clear distinctions right and wrong. They're able to think more abstractly. They also begin to understand manipulation and intention and are able to follow several storylines simultaneously. Kids become very good at memorization.

Social and emotional development: Nine-year-olds seek out friends with similar interests and personalities, and they're developing more mature awareness of others' feelings. At this age, the importance of popularity starts to emerge, and older kids are admired and idolized.

Physical development: Early puberty can begin in some kids at this age -- and, either way, body consciousness may begin.

Technological/digital savviness: Some kids this age have cell phones; if they're texting, they need to understand what is and isn't appropriate to say. The same holds true for taking pictures. At this age, kids may not yet understand how their seemingly anonymous behavior can have a real effect on real people.

Social networking and virtual worlds should be limited to age-appropriate sites (i.e. no Facebook, no matter how interested kids are).

Discuss multitasking, and make rules around it.

Explain how basic safety -- i.e. not clicking on games and offers -- will help keep spam and viruses out of computers. And discuss the concept of acceptable use (and find out what kids' school policies are). For example, at this age, kids begin to understand the concept of illegal downloading, which shouldn't happen. This topic leads into a discussion about the ethics of cheating, helping friends, and protecting privacy -- both kids' own and that of their friends.

What's age appropriate at age 9

Educational value: With increased moral understanding, kids can consume media that offers many diverse experiences -- both positive and negative -- to gain greater understanding of the world. In addition to skill-building media, anything that allows kids to learn about a different time or place has educational value.
Positive messages: Media that teaches by example -- positive or negative -- is age appropriate as long as any anti-social or discriminatory behavior has clear consequences. Nothing that glamorizes anti-social behavior is appropriate.
Positive role models: Kids should be encouraged to follow characters who are good role models -- and discuss why they're good role models. Adults should continue to help 9-year-olds break through gender stereotypes. Negative role models who suffer consequences for their behavior are also age appropriate.
Violence and scariness: Video game violence that involves first person shooting and blood isn't age appropriate -- nor is movie or TV violence that includes lots of blood. Nine-year-olds can learn how to express negative emotions in a constructive way if adults point out characters who successfully resolve conflict in a non-physical, non-violent way. Adults can also help kids understand the negative consequences of violent behavior. At this age, kids can deal with the beginnings of emotional conflict -- such as the loss of a pet or parents and divorce -- but scenes of anger, bullying, loyalty, and moral issues all require resolution. Talk to kids about what potentially scary content they may be watching; realistic scenarios may be the most frightening. Although they're bigger now, 9-year-olds can still have bad dreams.
Sexy stuff: Kids this age will "pose" and want to seem more knowledgeable than they are about sex. Portrayals of relationships are OK, but highly sexualized behaviors aren't. It's particularly important to avoid media that portrays sexual stereotypes; gendered body part jokes are age appropriate, but demeaning sexual humor isn't. With increased awareness of their bodies, sexualized situations may feel threatening to kids (that's why there are so many body part jokes in PG movies and in playground talk). By this age, many kids understand the "facts of life," and any disrespectful portrayal of girls as sexual objects or boys as sexual aggressors is age inappropriate, as are nudity and simulated sex.
Language: Kids this age can handle mild profanity like "hell," "damn," "butt," and "pee" -- and they'll likely find plenty of humor in those words. Insults and put-downs are also commonplace. We call them out in our reviews because, while they're not inappropriate for this age, they also aren't necessarily what you want your kids thinking is OK.
Consumerism/commercialism: Start pointing out how ads make people want things that they don't need. Use commercials to play a game of sorts, pointing out how silly and unrealistic many ads' claims are. Now is also a good time to start having more in-depth conversations about food choices -- especially how and why what kids are eating at home may differ from what they see in commercials.
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: No smoking is appropriate. Studies show that kids who see smoking in movies are far more likely to start smoking than kids who don't. Likewise, scenes of drinking and drug use aren't appropriate for this age.
Online privacy and safety: Make sure kids don't share passwords, click on ads, or fill out questionnaires. No sharing of any personal information is appropriate. Any pictures posted should be done with the knowledge of adults through safe channels with the highest privacy controls set.