FAQs

Who's behind this?

We operate strictly independently from any company, industry or political organization. We seek grants from organizations and foundations that are not affiliated with the media. We also accept sponsorships from companies that pose no conflict of interest regarding the media, and that support our goal of helping families make better media choices.

When I donate, where does the money go?

We are a not for profit organization. It takes an enormous amount of money to create and maintain this website. Most of your money goes to implementing our education and outreach programs or to supporting our advocacy opportunities and continued research.  Learn more about our other supporters.

What can I do to help?

Join us. Donate. Write letters. Get your friends to join. Watch and play with your kids and speak out for what's right, not just what's wrong.

How do you ensure that the privacy of children who submit reviews is protected?

We are strict adherents to the COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) laws. We NEVER sell or pass along ANY names and we don't even collect last names from kids. We're in the business of helping kids and would never do anything that could expose them to any harm. Learn more by reading our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

What do you review?

We rate and review thousands of movies, TV shows, books, video games, apps, and websites according to developmental criteria recommendations from some of the nation's leading authorities. Here's how to understand our ratings.

Who are your editors?

Our editors are a group of writers and media professionals with years of experience as both journalists and parents. We have degrees in subjects like journalism and media studies and have worked for book publishers (William Morrow/Avon Books, Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall Press, Bantam Books) and both online and off-line publications (BabyCenter.com, USA Today, Netflix, AOL, Computer Life, CNET.com, and more). We love media, and we love kids. Our editors are devoted to giving families the age-appropriate information they need to pick the movies, books, games, apps, music, and websites that their kids will enjoy.

Who are your reviewers?

Our reviewers come from every corner of the media, academic, and parenting worlds. Many are known as trusted voices in their areas of expertise -- from video games to apps. They have worked as reviewers for publications such as USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, AOL, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and more. Some are teachers, librarians, and experienced academics who've studied the impact of media at length. All are passionate about both media and Common Sense's "sanity, not censorship" approach to providing information.

How do you train them?

All of our reviewers go through an intensive training process in which they learn how to apply our child development guidelines to evaluating media. After receiving extensive supporting documentation, each works one-on-one with an editor to master all of the important details that go into each of our reviews. A trial period allows for a learning process and time for the editor to guide the reviewer toward a true grasp of Common Sense's development-based approach to reviewing media.

What do your ratings mean?

Every media title we review is rated on a combination of two factors -- age-appropriateness and quality. The age rating indicates the youngest appropriate age for the title, based on its specific content and overall developmental guidelines. The star ratings are a more traditional indicator of quality -- which is independent of age-appropriateness. We also offer families ways to talk about what their kids see, hear, play, and read. Our goal is not to cover kids’ eyes but to teach them to see. Click here for more in-depth information about our ratings.

How do you decide what is and isn’t age appropriate?

Because media profoundly affects our kids' social, emotional, and physical development, we review media from the point of view of age appropriateness. We rely on developmental guidelines culled from some of the nation's leading authorities to determine what content is roughly appropriate for which ages. But we stress that these are simply guidelines. Our information is there to promote awareness. You remain the expert on your kids. Our guidelines come from published studies and are reviewed by our advisory panel.

How come I see ratings that have 5 stars and yet are rated for age 18+?

We rate media based on quality as well as age appropriateness. Sometimes age-appropriate media can be absolutely boring or a waste of time -- and sometimes things that aren't age appropriate can be well made. We think you want to know how enjoyable something is before plunking down those twenties.

What do all the different parts of your reviews mean?

All of the sections of our reviews are explained in detail here.

Can't I just get the information I need from the little icons?

Afraid not. While the "content grid" section is an important part of each of our reviews -- and undeniably helpful to parents who are trying to decide whether a title's content makes it appropriate for their kids -- it doesn't offer the full picture of what each title is really about. Our "Parents Need to Know" section puts the title's content into context that addresses its relevance and impact, both of which are key to understanding whether something is OK for your family.

Are all of your reviews up to date?

With tens of thousands of reviews published on our site since we began in 2003, keeping up with our ever-evolving editorial style is one of our biggest content challenges. We have processes in place to revisit our older reviews regularly, but it's never as quickly as we'd like. If you come across a review that seems outdated or is missing something, please let us know.

How do you ensure editorial quality?

Each one of our reviews is carefully edited by a member of our editorial staff before it's posted to the site. Additionally, our entire editorial team discusses all of the reviews that are posted each week, evaluating the reviews and discussing any questions or concerns that arise. And we have a thorough "read behind" process in which every review gets yet another careful look after publication. That said, with more than 26,000 reviews, we don’t always get everything right, so be sure to let us know if you find something we got wrong.

Do you provide Closed Captioning?

All programming distributed by Common Sense Media (“CSM”) complies with the closed captioning requirements established by the Federal Communications Commission as embodied in 47 C.F.R. § 79.1, including regulations concerning closed captioning quality.

Programming provided by CSM complies with these regulations by being subject to one or more of the captioning exemptions set forth in 47 C.F.R. § 79.1(d), including exceptions relating to interstitial material, promotional announcements, or public service announcements that are 10 minutes or less in duration. 

Posted on July 8, 2015.

Questions regarding CSM’s closed captioning certification can be directed to Jim Carroll at 415-553-6723 or by email at JCarroll@commonsense.org.