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American Idol

TV review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
American Idol TV Poster Image
Long-running music competition is consistently entertaining.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 56 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 143 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The audition phase of the show can sometimes be highly critical (and in earlier seasons mean-spirited), but later episodes are enthusiastic and exciting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some judges are very positive and encouraging, while others can be negative and belittling. In the contestant pool, some are clearly dedicated, hardworking performers who just want their chance to succeed -- while others just want their 15 minutes (or even seconds) of fame.


Sexy clothes (one woman memorably appeared in just a bikini), talk of appearing sexy, flirtations with judges. Lyrics can be suggestive in nature. 


Audible swearing/negative language used by both judges and contestants includes words/phrases like "you are an ass," "that sucked," and "crap!"


Product placement and sponsorship is everywhere, and there are lots of branded tie-in products on the market, too.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Idol has spawned countless other similar series. The judges' rapport and comments are as big a part of the show as the singing. Their feedback, primarily Simon Cowell's (who left the show in 2010), can be severe and hurtful ("you remind me of a wasp," "that was terrible," "that was the worst one yet"), though the new judges take a gentler approach. People of all backgrounds and body types try out for the show, if only to get a few minutes to meet the judges and/or get their 10 seconds of fame. Contestants have been mocked for cross-dressing, lack of talent, strange attire, dressing/acting sexy, and general physical appearance. The camera lingers on contestants who respond to the judges with joy or bleeped obscenities, hand gestures, and tears. Parents should also know that the show is a walking advertisement, with commercial products embedded throughout.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written bykatehenry March 3, 2010
This is great fare for the whole family. We went to the American Idol summer tour concert last summer. Really a great time had by all. It's rare to find so... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byjordynannee February 21, 2015
For me American Idol shows that any one can follow their dreams,but sometimes following your dreams can and in disappointment.Sometimes the show there is swear... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byDanceMomsAddict June 9, 2014

Love this!

I used to watch it a ton when I was younger but it might be a little boring for kids 7 and under
Kid, 11 years old February 3, 2013


I love this show, but the language they use can be a little to much for little kids.

What's the story?

Every season, the AMERICAN IDOL judges -- including Simon Cowell (2002-2010), Paula Abdul (2002-2009), Randy Jackson, briefly Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Luke Tyler -- and host Ryan Seacrest visit cities across the United States, judging thousands of hopeful singers. Performers at both ends of the spectrum are showcased, but only the top ones make it to the main competition in order to sing their way to Idol stardom. 

Is it any good?

The hugely popular series, which has been on the air for over 14 years on two different networks, has become a staple in reality competition entertainment. Some of judges' often over-the-top personalities have become infamous, as well as reality-show benchmarks. Meanwhile, the contestants' emotional, sometimes astounding performances grab those watching at home, who also feel involved in the process, since their votes determine the show's outcome.

Many contestants are clearly looking for their moment in the spotlight. But plenty of the Idol wannabes are in it because they're truly talented singers who are dreaming of a big break. Many winners and runners-up have also gone on to become true pop stars. Like it or not, American Idol's show formula -- as unforgiving as it can sometimes be-- really does work.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the audition process. Are the contestants who clearly have no singing ability auditioning for real or for fame? How can critiques be helpful to those who take the competition seriously? What's the difference between constructive and destructive criticism?

  • What is talent, and what talents do your kids feel they have? Does American Idol inspire them? If so, in what way?

  • How is the show making money by having consumer products obvious at every turn?

TV details

For kids who love music

Our editors recommend

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