How We Rate and Review

Behind the Common Sense Media ratings system

Common Sense Media publishes independent ratings and reviews for nearly everything kids want to watch, read, play, and learn. We never receive payments or other consideration for our reviews. Our unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the creators or by our funders.

Because media profoundly affects our kids' social, emotional, and physical development, Common Sense Media rates media based on both age appropriateness and, for digital media, learning potential. We rely on developmental criteria from some of the nation's leading authorities to determine what content is appropriate for which ages. And research on how kids learn from media and technology informs our learning ratings. Our goal is to give you trustworthy information so that you can decide what works for your family. We know every family and every kid is different -- but all families need information to make great media choices.


We help you decide: What’s appropriate at every age

For each title we review, we indicate the youngest appropriate age, based on its specific content and overall developmental guidelines. Select your child’s age to learn more:

 

 

Right below our ratings, we have a list of content categories with in-depth information on each title. Each category is rated on a scale of 0-5; if no dots are filled in, that means the content is either not applicable or doesn't rate on our scale. If three are highlighted, that means there’s a fair amount of that type of content, and five highlighted dots indicates that there's lots of it.  


Why we rate something best, good, fair, or not for learning

For educational apps, video games, and websites, we indicate each title's learning potential on a five-point scale:
 

 
5 dots: Really engaging, excellent learning approach.
 
4 dots: Engaging, very good learning approach.
 
3 dots: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
 
2 dots: Somewhat engaging, OK learning approach.
 
1 dot: Not recommended for learning.
 
We look at several aspects of each title we review to determine its learning rating:

 

Dimension Sample Criteria
Engagement Is it engaging, fun, absorbing?
Learning approach Is the learning central and not secondary to the experience? Is it relevant and transferable to real life? Does it build concepts and deep understanding? Do kids get exposure to a diversity of people and situations?
Support and extensions Are there opportunities and resources to support, strengthen, and extend learning? Do kids get feedback about their performance? Is the title accessible to a variety of audiences?

Is it any good?

Our star rating assesses each title's overall quality.

The best!
Really good
Just fine; solid
Disappointing
Don't bother

 

What parents need to know

This is a short guide to all the essential information that parents need to know to make a decision quickly -- or manage a decision that’s already been made.


What's the story?/What's it about?

A brief summary of what the experience is like. For movies, DVD, books, and TV shows, this is a plot summary. For games, apps, and websites, it's a description of what happens in the course of interacting with the title.


Families can talk about

Our kids are really influenced by the everything they see, hear, and interact with. We offer families discussion starters and offline activity ideas to help them think about and extend the messages and content of the media they consume.


What kids can learn

For titles with a learning rating, this is a brief summary of the subjects and skills that kids could learn. It gives parents, teachers, and kids the essential information they need to decide about a title’s learning potential.

 

Subjects and skills

Looking for engaging games that require critical thinking skills? Apps that exercise creative muscles? Websites that encourage vocabulary building through collaboration? We analyze titles for the subjects and skills they cover, and offer these details in a simple, searchable format.

Subjects include both academic areas and extracurricular activities.

  • Language & reading: Reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English or other languages
  • Math: Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus
  • Science: Physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology
  • Social studies: History, geography, government
  • Arts: Visual arts, dance, theater, music, film
  • Hobbies: Developing areas of personal interest and passion

Skills include key skills that kids need to think, live, work -- and succeed -- in the world of tomorrow.

  • Thinking & reasoning: Logic, strategy, problem-solving, thinking critically and analytically
  • Creativity: Developing novel solutions, making new creations, innovation
  • Self-direction: Motivation, taking initiative, effort, personal growth, learning how to learn
  • Emotional development: Self-awareness, handling stress, developing resilience, empathy, perspective-taking
  • Communication: Convey messages effectively using multiple forms of expression
  • Collaboration: Teamwork, respecting other viewpoints, cooperation, meeting challenges together
  • Responsibility & ethics: Integrity, respect, embracing differences, learning from consequences
  • Tech skills: Digital creation, evaluating media, social media, using and applying technology
  • Health & fitness: Movement, fitness, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, physical and mental health