Law & Order: SVU

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

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 40 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 58 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. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJenna Glenwood January 22, 2020

Violent and sexy, but good.

The show is good because it is realistic fiction, but it can get pretty violent and has a lot of sex. It also contains language and drug abuse.
Adult Written byHolly R. October 23, 2019

I have watched this since 1999 at the age of 11

I was only 11 when this debuted. I used to watch this with my now deceased great-grandma and never had too much problem with it. More recent episodes are defini... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old August 4, 2011

Not a tween/teen show. Mature teens and adults only!

I hate the show, only because it is insanely scary for tweens! I like NCIS, so I decided to watch this. NOT a good idea. I was creeped out for a whole week! It... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byScreencritic May 27, 2020

Mature drama with sex related crimes and heavy topics

I think this is a show has great performances and content. However, if you are 14 and below I would take a pass. It deals with rape, sexual abuse, and murder o... Continue reading

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? 

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