Age-Appropriate Content: How to Ensure Your Child Is Consuming What’s Right for Them

By Andrea Nelson
November 14, 2023
Mother and daughter under tent

We want to make sure the content our children consume is appropriate for them, from what they watch on YouTube to what appears on their social feeds. But with the amount of media available, the task can feel overwhelming. Here are tips for evaluating content and deciding if it’s right for your child. 

How to vet content 

With a little digging, you can get a pretty good idea if your child’s new favorite content is right for them.

Watch it yourself

The best way to ensure a piece of content is appropriate for your child is to watch it with them. While that’s not always realistic in terms of time, it’s helpful if you want to understand what a show, channel, or game is about. Plus, you can chat with your child about why they enjoy it, which may be even more insightful. 

Ask around

Odds are high that the kids in your child’s friend group are consuming the same content. If your child is always watching the same kinds of videos or talking about a certain influencer, talk to other parents and see if they have any insight they can share. 

Look for a rating

Most shows, music, games, and movies come with a rating, often accompanied by a few words indicating potentially objectionable elements such as “strong language” or “mild violence.” You can also check a reputable source like Common Sense Media to understand if a piece of content is appropriate for your child. Common Sense Media also features reviews from other parents and kids so you get a variety of opinions. 

Use parental controls

Most devices have parental control settings that allow parents to set content filters and restrictions. For example, you can use Apple Screen Time to prevent explicit content and ratings on your child’s device — including content such as music, movies, and apps. A parental monitoring app like BrightCanary is also helpful here. BrightCanary’s AI scans the content on your child’s YouTube, Google, Instagram, and TikTok accounts, alerting you if your child encounters anything inappropriate.

Questions to ask when evaluating content

Whether something is right for a particular child varies from family to family. As you research content, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Does this align with the values I try to teach my child? 

Using a values lens to evaluate content is an effective framework for making sure something is right for your child and your household. 

Are there negative or harmful stereotypes?

Given that media is one way children form their ideas about the world, it’s important to think carefully about the stereotypes that exist in what they consume. 

Does it include strong language? 

Families have differing opinions on how comfortable they are with their child hearing swear words and other strong language. Decide if it’s important to you that your child avoid these words or if you’re okay helping them learn the distinction between what they hear and what’s okay for them to say. 

Is there violence or sexual content? 

Every parent falls in a slightly different place on the question of violence and sexual content. For some, it depends on if the content is animated or live action. Decide what matters to you and evaluate accordingly. 

Are there adult innuendos? 

If a piece of content includes innuendos, ask yourself if you think your child will catch them, or if they will go right over their head. Even if you think they won’t understand the innuendos, it’s worth considering if they might repeat them and how you’ll feel if they use phrases from shows around other people. 

Is my child able to view this critically? 

Just because a piece of content includes things you don’t agree with doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a no-go. If your child is mature enough to reject the negative elements, you may feel okay letting them consume it anyway.

What to do if your child is exposed to inappropriate content 

It’s impossible to shield kids from everything. It’s also not the end of the world if your child sees something that isn’t ideal. In fact, when you use it as a springboard for a conversation about values and critical thinking about media, it can become a wonderful teachable moment. 

Here are some conversation-starters:

  • How did watching that make you feel? 
  • What do you think about how the characters in it were portrayed? 
  • If you saw or heard that in real life, what would you think? 

Teaching your child how to evaluate content on their own

As your child gets older, you won’t be able to screen every bit of media they’re exposed to. However, you can teach them to evaluate content for themselves and start making some of their own decisions about what they consume. 

Tips for teaching your child to evaluate content: 

  • When you watch something together, have a conversation about how it does or does not align with your family’s values. 
  • Ask them what they think of a piece of media. 
  • When you tell them they can’t watch or listen to something, give them insight into how you made your decision. 

In short 

Employing a values lens, utilizing available resources, and teaching kids skills to think critically about the content they consume are useful methods to ensure what your child watches and listens to is appropriate for them.

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