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Families Love Podcasts, But Need Help Making Great Choices

The new Common Sense Media podcast review channel is the first of its kind in this trending new media space.

Topics: Quality Media
Little girl wearing big headphones.

Kids and families have been listening to more and more podcasts since the pandemic. Our own recent research revealed that nearly half of teens have listened to podcasts, and one in five say they do so at least once a week. And the industry is responding: Podcasts in the kids and family category have seen a 20% increase in listenership since 2019.

It's very clear the podcast world is growing, but what's less obvious is how podcasts for kids and families will continue to emerge and be discovered. And for parents and caregivers, there's work to be done to understand how this fits into their child's media consumption and what may be appropriate for their child. That's why we're so excited about our new podcast review category in our library of award-winning, research-backed ratings and reviews, reflecting the massive growth in the podcast industry. Our podcast ratings are the first of their kind in the market to provide consumers with comprehensive podcast ratings and reviews grounded in child-development principles and research.

We want our podcast ratings and reviews to serve as a safe space for kids and families to explore this newer medium. Like all our ratings and reviews, we help take the legwork out of vetting this content for kids, parents, and educators. Our aim is to educate and guide families through this newer landscape and help them incorporate this growing form of media into their lives in an informed way.

But we also hope the development of this podcast review rubric will serve as an age-appropriate standard for production companies to develop quality content for kids and families.

We view our podcast ratings as mutually beneficial for kids, families, educators, and content producers. Here's how we want to work together with content providers to add value and address some key issues in the industry:

Meeting industry pain points

Many producers lack the resources to develop a ratings system. They're also concerned that age ratings may limit their audiences. Our age ratings solve this problem, as we provide a research-backed age suggestion while also empowering families and educators with the information they need to make their own informed decisions. Common Sense Media reviews will also cover the privacy gap that currently exists in podcast listening platforms. Many platforms don't have privacy controls for kids, and "explicit" tags usually identify rough language but not necessarily content, leading to many shows being inaccurately labeled. Our reviews clearly state the range of explicit content and break it down clearly by subject matter.

Our verified, research-based rating system will also limit the possibility for shows to experience negatively skewed feedback from inauthentic sources. We want to be a conduit for change and betterment in the kids podcast space, so our feedback is geared toward improvement over negativity. We want to serve as a resource for production companies to adjust their content to meet the criteria for their targeted audience in this fluid media space.

Improving discoverability

A well-known issue on many podcast listening platforms is discoverability. With so many podcasts out there, it's easy to get lost in the mix. One tricky issue is that a platform's categorization strategy may not always be conducive to their targeted audience. Our vast array of podcast categories surpasses what's available on many platforms, which will expand podcast discoverability.

Highlighting diverse voices

As podcast listenership continues to grow and diversify, the podcast industry needs more diverse voices and stories to elevate inclusion in the media and reflect their listening audience. Our reviews incorporate Common Sense Media's diversity rating rubric measuring diverse authenticity, accessibility, and representation. In addition, our Common Sense Selections will highlight diverse podcasts with distinction. We also incorporate a wide array of listening options in our reviews, including a direct link to YouTube.

Right now, we're primarily focused on popular podcasts geared toward kids and families, all currently available on streaming and online platforms, but we will eventually expand our reviews to include titles for broader audiences. As a trusted brand, our goal is to help parents, caregivers, kids, and educators safely and effectively find the right podcasts as a form of education and entertainment, while having a positive influence on the future of content production in the kids and family podcast space.

Laura Ordoñez

As Common Sense's sr. editor, head of podcast and YouTube reviews, Laura spearheads all of our podcast and YouTube coverage and curation. Before joining Common Sense, Laura spent 10 years as a communications specialist in the health and wellness space and then followed her passion for writing and storytelling into the world of journalism. She fell in love with investigative reporting and sports writing while getting her bachelor's in journalism from San Francisco State University and went on to cover the Golden State Warriors as a reporter and editor, earning several awards for her coverage, including the 2017 Oakland A’s Bill King Scholarship and Associated Press Sports Editors Award. More recently, Laura was a podcast host and producer for a Bay Area startup, working to create a platform to help parents gain knowledge and confidence in raising their children. As a social justice warrior and mental health advocate, she spearheaded DEI efforts to create more diverse content relatable to a broader audience. She's currently working on launching her own podcast focused on helping intersectional feminists support their mental, emotional, and physical health while standing in their power. She also enjoys Muay Thai, cuddling with her dog, trying to get her teenage son to think she's "not a regular mom" but a "cool mom," and meditating over tarot cards while dissecting her horoscope. Follow her on Twitter.