Who's behind this?
We operate strictly independently from any company, industry or political organization. We seek grants from organizations and foundations that are not affiliated with the media. We also accept sponsorships from companies that pose no conflict of interest regarding the media, and that support our goal of helping families make better media choices.
When I donate, where does the money go?
We are a not for profit organization. It takes an enormous amount of money to create and maintain this website. Most of your money goes to implementing our education and outreach programs or to supporting our advocacy opportunities and continued research. Learn more about our other supporters.
What can I do to help?
Join us. Donate. Write letters. Get your friends to join. Watch and play with your kids and speak out for what's right, not just what's wrong.
How do you ensure that the privacy of children who submit reviews is protected?
What do you review?
We rate and review thousands of movies, TV shows, songs, books, video games, apps, and websites according to developmental criteria recommendations from some of the nation's leading authorities. Here's how to understand our ratings.
Who are your editors?
Our editors are a group of writers and media professionals with years of experience as both journalists and parents. We have degrees in subjects like journalism and media studies and have worked for book publishers (William Morrow/Avon Books, Addison-Wesley, Prentice Hall Press, Bantam Books) and both online and off-line publications (BabyCenter.com, USA Today, Netflix, AOL, Computer Life, CNET.com, and more). We love media, and we love kids. Our editors are devoted to giving families the age-appropriate information they need to pick the movies, books, games, apps, music, and websites that their kids will enjoy.
Who are your reviewers?
Our reviewers come from every corner of the media, academic, and parenting worlds. Many are known as trusted voices in their areas of expertise -- from video games to apps. They have worked as reviewers for publications such as USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, AOL, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and more. Some are teachers, librarians, and experienced academics who've studied the impact of media at length. All are passionate about both media and Common Sense's "sanity, not censorship" approach to providing information.
How do you train them?
All of our reviewers go through an intensive training process in which they learn how to apply our child development guidelines to evaluating media. After receiving extensive supporting documentation, each works one-on-one with an editor to master all of the important details that go into each of our reviews. A trial period allows for a learning process and time for the editor to guide the reviewer toward a true grasp of Common Sense's development-based approach to reviewing media.
What do your ratings mean?
Every media title we review is rated on a combination of two factors -- age-appropriateness and quality. The "thermometer" bar with the circled age indicates the age for which the content is appropriate or relevant. Sometimes a movie or a game is right for an 11-year-old, and sometimes it's something an 11-year-old wants to see or play. Not necessarily the same thing! The star ratings are a more traditional indicator of quality -- which is independent of age-appropriateness. Click here for more in-depth information about our ratings.
What do the different colors mean?
Green (or "on") means that the title is age-appropriate for the highlighted age. Red (or "off") means that it's not age-appropriate. Yellow (or "pause") means that it's a "know your kid" situation. We know that all families and kids are different, and different kids are able to handle different material at different times. These indicators aren't meant to tell families what to do but rather to give enough information to encourage thoughtful choices. We also offer families ways to talk about what their kids see, hear, play, and read. Our goal is not to cover kids’ eyes but to teach them to see.
How do you decide what is and isn’t age appropriate?
Because media profoundly affects our kids' social, emotional, and physical development, we review media from the point of view of age appropriateness. We rely on developmental guidelines culled from some of the nation's leading authorities to determine what content is roughly appropriate for which ages. But we stress that these are simply guidelines. Our information is there to promote awareness. You remain the expert on your kids. Our guidelines come from published studies and are reviewed by our advisory panel. We are in the midst of updating these guidelines.
How come I see ratings that have 5 stars and yet are "Not for Kids"?
We rate media based on quality as well as age appropriateness. Sometimes age-appropriate media can be absolutely boring or a waste of time -- and sometimes things that aren't age appropriate can be well made. We think you want to know how enjoyable something is before plunking down those twenties.
What do all the different parts of your reviews mean?
Our reviews have five different sections. The “Parents Need to Know” section provides the essential information you need to make a decision quickly about whether something is right for your child (or, in some cases, to manage a decision that's already been made). It doesn't summarize the plot or list out all of the characters or content in detail; rather, it concentrates on the top-level stuff that will be most helpful in making decisions.
The “Families Can Talk About” section suggests possible discussions to have with your kids after watching/playing/reading/listening to the title in question. We really want kids to think about the movies, TV, games, websites, music, apps, and books that fill their lives, since they all have so much influence on how our kids develop.
The “Content Grid” uses icons to highlight specific content -- both positive and negative -- and offers in-depth information. We use a scale to address the categories that parents have told us matter to them in choosing what to see or do. The graph simply shows whether content is present in several categories, including Educational Value, Consumerism, Messages, Role Models, Online Safety & Privacy, and the more traditional Sex, Violence, Drinking/Drugs, and Language. If no icon is highlighted, that means the content isn’t present. If three are highlighted, that means there's a fair amount, and five highlighted icons indicates that there's lots of it.
“What's the Story” summarizes the plot (where relevant) of the title being reviewed. (Don't worry -- we always let you know if there's a spoiler alert!) and “Is It Any Good?” evaluates the title for quality. Is it funny? Sad? Well made? Innovative? Here's where you find out if, all things being equal, it's really worth your time. This part of the page is most like a "traditional" review.
Can't I just get the information I need from the little icons?
Afraid not. While that section is an important part of each of our reviews -- and undeniably helpful to parents who are trying to decide whether a title's content makes it appropriate for their kids -- it doesn't offer the full picture of what each title is really about. Our "Parents Need to Know" section puts the title's content into context that addresses its relevance and impact, both of which are key to understanding whether something is OK for your family.
Are all of your reviews up to date?
With thousands of reviews published on our site since we began in 2003, keeping up with our ever-evolving editorial style is one of our biggest content challenges. We have processes in place to revisit our older reviews regularly, but it's never as quickly as we'd like. If you come across a review that seems outdated or is missing something, please let us know.
How do you ensure editorial quality?
Each one of our reviews is carefully edited by a member of our editorial staff before it's posted to the site. Additionally, our entire editorial team discusses all of the reviews that are posted each week, evaluating the reviews and discussing any questions or concerns that arise. And we have a thorough "read behind" process in which every review gets yet another careful look after publication. That said, with more than 12,000 reviews, we don’t always get everything right, so be sure to let us know if you find something we got wrong.