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Law & Order: SVU

TV review by
Liz Perle, Common Sense Media
Law & Order: SVU TV Poster Image
Grisly, sensationalized sex crimes; not meant for kids.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 36 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 52 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Deviant crimes discussed; teamwork, crime solving, divorce, etc. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Detectives, lawyers sometimes make poor choices, sometimes due to pressures from work.


Sex crimes ranging from rape and incest to mutilation, etc. central theme, are often discussed in detail. Wounds, corpses, other violent images shown. 


Occasional innuendo; relationship problems sometimes discussed. 


"damn," "bitch," "bastards," etc. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are often part of plot; alcoholism a theme in some seasons. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the most sensationalized installment of the Law & Order franchise because of its focus on sex crimes. Graphic, unusual crimes are the norm, and victims are frequently women and children. There's some strong language ("bitch, "damn," etc.), crude sexual references, drinking, smoking, and drug use. Rape and alcoholism are major themes in some seasons. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysperryking July 9, 2011

Parents relax its great show for mature teens 12+

The series is a way to show what really happens everyday and how justice is or isn't served in a rather entertaining and interesting way.the suspenseful se... Continue reading
Parent of a 11, 12, and 18+ year old Written byMarlon baker December 23, 2013

It depends on the child you have

My child loves this show and wants to be just like Olivia (one of the characters) when she grows up and she is 12 years old! I think it depends on the child you... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byccv23 April 28, 2011

Great show! but not made for kids

This is a very entertaining but disturbing show. I started watching it when i was 10 and i enjoyed it but sometimes i would turn off the tv because it was too s... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byscarlett_elisabeth August 6, 2013

Not for kids

the tv show is 14+ for a good reason, anybody under the age of 13 should not be watching this.

What's the story?

LAW & ORDER: SVU centers on "the elite squad of detectives who investigate sexually based crimes" -- known as the Special Victims Unit of the New York Police Department. Detectives Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) and Olivia Benson are seasoned cops who investigate some of the city's most difficult and perverse crimes. Also assigned to their department is Detective John Munch (Richard Belzer) and his partner, Detective Odafin "Fin" Tutuola (played by rapper Ice-T). Headed up by Captain Donald Cragen (Dan Florek), the detectives work hard to solve an endless array of disturbing and violent sex crimes with the help of Assistant district attorney Casey Novak (Diane Neal), forensic psychiatrist George Huang (B.D. Wong), and medical examiner Melinda Warner (Tamara Tunie). 

Is it any good?

After 17+ seasons, the sensational series consistently combines the suspense of the investigative process with the graphic details of disconcerting and sinister sex crimes to create narratives that are entertainingly disturbing. Unlike other installments of the Law & Order franchise, many of the stories are somehow connected to the characters' personal lives, which serves to heighten the emotional nature of the show. Adding to the drama are the performances delivered by a lengthy roster of guest stars over the years, including Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin, Sarah Hyland, and Serena Williams

Law & Order: SVU has seen its fair share of cast members come and go. But despite the changing characters (played by folks like Michelle Hurd, Stephanie March, Adam Beach, Peter Scanavino, Dean Winters, and Kelli Giddish), the integrity of the show remains intact thanks to its commitment to telling a good story.  Whether you tune in to the early seasons, or find yourself watching later ones, the overall series is consistently compelling. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the natures of the crimes featured on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. What are some of the psychological consequences of some of the show's frequent themes? Are these crimes common? Who do they impact the most? 

  • TV procedurals like Law & Order: SVU feature a range of criminal behaviors that range from being disturbing to extremely violent. Is featuring these crimes in a fictional series bringing attention to them, or just sensationalizing them? Why? 

TV details

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