Age appropriate media for your kids

Clearly you can't protect your children from everything, but keeping them from experiencing media they're not ready for is largely within your control.

When it comes to entertainment, there are so many choices that you probably come across media titles you’ve never heard of. Helping your kids find age appropriate media choices can be daunting. While you don’t want your kids exposed to topics they aren’t old enough for , you also don’t want to limit their choices too much by enforcing overly strict rules. By understanding how to make the right choices, you can make your kids happy without worry.

Understanding ratings

Movies, video games, computer games , smartphone apps, and television shows are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America . These ratings give you an idea of what a certain form of media contains . Ratings are assigned based on foul language, sexual content, violence, and drug use.

Based on the rating, you can usually get a pretty good idea of whether the media is age appropriate. In general, younger kids should stick with lower ratings, while teens are probably ready to handle games and movies with more adult ratings.

Books

When it comes to books, it can be harder to determine what is and is not age appropriate for your child. You could read through the book in question, but a more efficient solution is to check the title on CommonSenseMedia.com . You can plug in the title of the book and get a rundown of what it’s about, what elements you might want to be aware of, and what age group the story is appropriate for.

When in doubt

If you’re still unsure about whether media is age appropriate, it’s a good idea to preview it. Play the video game your child is dying to have or watch the movie he wants to see. You may have to see the whole thing to know for sure , but in some cases a few minutes is enough to tell you that your child isn’t ready for it yet.

If you decide the media is a bit mature but you think your child can probably handle it, consider watching, playing, or reading together. That way your child can experience the entertainment, but you’ll be nearby to answer questions and offer explanations as needed . This is also a great way to share something your child loves.

Clearly you can’t protect your children from everything, but keeping them from experiencing media they’re not ready for is largely within your control. Chances are you’ll meet with some resistance, so be ready to calmly explain your position and offer alternatives. Consider setting parental safety controls on your cable and smartphone to keep your kids from trying out something you don’t want them to see.