TV review by
Betsy Wallace, Common Sense Media
Survivor TV Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Plotting and scheming in paradise for $1,000,000.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 74 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show's nature encourages lying, manipulation, deception, and selfishness -- not exactly glowing messages. And producers sometimes encourage conflict in the way they structure the teams -- dividing them by races or age groups, for example. That said, tribes and alliances do work together in challenges and at camp, some contestants seem to rise above the show's essential greed, and some episodes' reward challenges celebrate world cultures.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most contestants play by the motto "nice guys finish last." Some Survivors are sarcastic and make snide jokes and comments about each other; others have stolen from their fellow castaways, and secret alliances (and betrayals of those alliances) are common.


Survivors frequently get mad at each other, but game rules prohibit acts of violence (though there have been some angry confrontations). Some seasons have included accidents such as someone falling in the fire or accidentally cutting themselves, but nothing too graphic. Some injuries during challenges.


Some flirting. Occasional blurred/pixilated nudity when competitors bathe and/or start to lose their swimsuits during challenges. Some of the women wear very skimpy suits on a regular basis.


Strong profanity is bleeped out; words on the level of "bitch" are allowed and not uncommon.


Everything is sponsored, from challenges and rewards to "honors" given to various contestants during the commercial breaks. Brand-name cars, soft drinks, toilet paper, candy bars, and more have all served as rewards.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Survivors sometimes win rewards that involve alcohol, and sometimes they get tipsy. No underage drinking. Very occasional smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this show's early success is largely responsible for the explosion of reality TV programming. While it airs in early primetime, it's not always family viewing: Survivors sometimes swear and like to "get back to nature" -- but you might too, if your clothes got as dirty as theirs. Producers will sometimes divide teams along controversial lines (race, age groups, etc.) to shake things up, and virtually every activity the Survivors take part in is backed by a corporate sponsorship. Bonds of friendship are made to be broken as the players struggle to outwit each other in order to win. No one is above back-stabbing a friend when $1,000,000 is on the line.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 1 and 5-year-old Written byBuckyD December 8, 2010

We watch as a family, with lots and lots of discussion.

I always hate people that give advice that covers every kid. Certainly the advice, generally given, is that no kid under the age of 10-12 should watch Survivor... Continue reading
Adult Written byLexapen October 13, 2019

A little risque

I am by no means prudish. However, I began watching season 1 with my 10 year old, and the multiple discussions regarding orgies, was a bit unsettling. I watched... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysourcecoderocks September 18, 2011

Fun to watch

I love this show!! The challenges and scheming and survival aspect of it make it even more fun to watch.
Kid, 11 years old May 29, 2011


Its a AWESOME show but sometimes there are iffy moments.

What's the story?

In award-winning reality show SURVIVOR, a group of strangers (usually 16, sometimes more) ranging in age from 20ish to 60ish is "cast away" for 39 days in a remote tropical location and divided into tribes. The tribes compete against each other in challenges for rewards or immunity from elimination (once the number of players dwindles significantly, they start competing individually instead of at the tribal level). The last contestant standing wins $1 million and the title of Sole Survivor. Even as they form a society and work together to build shelters and win the challenges, the Survivors vote each other out of the game one by one at tribal council -- a formula that's been copied by countless reality/game shows since, from Big Brother to The Bachelor to American Idol. But the game changes in unexpected ways each season, too, deliberately churning up surprises: Past gimmicks have included bringing back players who were voted out, switching up the tribes after a few days, exiling players to a special island, dividing tribes along controversial lines (race, age groups, etc.), and so on.

Is it any good?

It's not a stretch to call Survivor innovative and educational. The game requires contestants to learn and employ wilderness skills and work together, and each season takes place in a different part of the world, with the history and culture of the region incorporated into the show. Challenges test not only Survivors' physical strength but also their knowledge of local traditions and their ability to solve puzzles and problems. Terrific wildlife footage gives viewers a close-up look at exotic insects, snakes, spiders, sharks, tigers, alligators, etc., depending on the location.

As it has progressed, the series has wisely spent less time focusing on the Survivors' day-to-day ailments and more time emphasizing their social interaction and competitive ability -- which always makes for more compelling reality TV. Fans of the series will find plenty to enjoy in each installment, although some parents won't appreciate the fact that lying and backstabbing are so prevalent.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to be a true survivor and how "real" the show is. Do you think the contestants are ever really in danger of starving or getting seriously hurt?

  • Are the players really the way they seem on TV, or does editing shape how they come across to viewers?

  • Do you have to cheat and lie in order to win this game? Is it ever OK to lie, and if so, when?

TV details

  • Premiere date: May 31, 2000
  • Cast: Jeff Probst
  • Network: CBS
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: DVD, Streaming
  • Award: Emmy
  • Last updated: February 13, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love reality TV

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