This American Life App Poster Image

This American Life



Radio show podcasts contain 15-year slice of American life.

What parents need to know

Ease of play

Easy to browse. List show titles and descriptions chronologically, by contributor, or by hot-button issues. You can also search for specific words, but this will only find matches in descriptions, not the transcript of the show itself, unfortunately.


Some shows feature interviews with people who have experienced violence. In "Guns," victims talk about the sights and sounds of a Texas restaurant shooting that left 23 dead.


Sex-related topics are treated with balance and empathy. "How to Talk to Kids" features how Americans teach their kids about sex.

Not applicable

There are no ads. However, each show listing includes an "Own It" iTunes link. (You can listen for free but downloaded shows cost 99 cents apiece.) The app also includes trailers for a dozen half-hour Showtime specials that aired in 27 and 28. These TV shows cost $1.99 apiece to download or $1.99 for a season.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

At least one show features interviews with recovering alcoholics.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this app is a complete archive of the popular hour-long public radio show. The content occasionally touches on violence, sexual practices and other adult themes.

Is it any good?


Public broadcasting at its best, This American Life has entertained with topical and personal-essay broadcasts since 1995. This app, which collects all 400-plus hour-long radio shows under one roof and automatically adds new ones each week, is a treasure trove. A kind of audio version of 60 Minutes, each show explores an aspect of American life via issues or interesting individuals, some famous but most of them regular people, including kids. There are episodes on bullying, babysitting, and a bonus Showtime program on kids trying to learn standup comedy.

App details

Devices:iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
Release date:March 26, 2010
Publisher:Public Radio Exchange

This review of This American Life was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Brain trainer puts your mind to the test, but it's harsh.
  • Cute visuals may appeal to kids too young for the challenge.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byWell17 May 2, 2013

You Should Listen to it

I don't have the app, but I love the radio show. NPR shows really expose how life really is, which you should show to your kids. They did a really good series on a high school with a lot of violence; and they really show you what it's like to be more or (usually) less wealthy than you. Go NPR!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educator and Parent of a 8, 12, and 15 year old Written byEmily Esch May 13, 2010

The ap is great, and the show is better.

The app itself is absolutely the best. Super easy to browse and find any TAL episode you're looking for. The content of the radio show that the app supports is among the best media created by anyone anywhere, but there are definitely some episodes that aren't for kids, and lots of episodes that will bring up some teachable moments. My parents got me hooked on the show because they'd play it during long car rides when I was a teenager. It started lots of conversations about life and the world that we probably wouldn't have had otherwise.