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Common Sense Media

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Common Sense Media
"Common Sense Media needs some common sense"
- Random reviewer on the site
a.k.a.: CSM
Type of site: Nonprofit organization
Language: English
Created by: James P. Steyer
Owner: James P. Steyer
Date of launch: February 27, 2003
Status: Active

Common Sense Media is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that provides education and advocacy to families to promote safe technology and media for children. Founded by Jim Steyer in 2003, Common Sense Media reviews books, movies, TV shows, video games, apps, music, and websites and rates them in terms of age-appropriate educational content, positive messages/role models, violence, sex and profanity, and more for parents making media choices for their children. Common Sense Media has also developed a set of ratings that are intended to gauge the educational value of videos, games, and apps. The nonprofit's "Learning Ratfings" attempt to assess different types of learning qualities within various forms of media.

It is primarily used by conservative parents to see if media is "appropriate" and educational for their children.

As of 2022, Common Sense Media's reviews for media are under a metered paywall. Users who want to access more than three media reviews per month must buy a subscription called Common Sense Media Plus, despite claiming to be a non-profit. You can get around this by wiping the browser data on DuckDuckGo and coming back to the site when you've reached your fourth article.

Why It Has No Common Sense


  1. Their content contains an obvious bias that CSM's values of controlling children's intellectual experiences and their Ten Beliefs should be shared by everyone, through their reviews for parents and their K-12 "digital citizenship" program.[1][2]
    • In addition to obvious biased wording in their content, they convince parents into using the site by adding "Parents Need to Know"[3] in their reviews and advertising the site as unbiased by encouraging parents to read their "unbiased" reviews and by claiming that the reviews were made by expert reviewers and weren't influenced by the creators, media partners, or funders. In reality, the reviews almost always contain some form of conservative bias towards their ideology, although recently CSM has shown promising signs.
  2. As stated before, their blogs always have biased wording, always perceiving the organization's beliefs as better than another and heavily using their opinions as fact.
    • Some of their writers write like they have a negative opinion about something just because it isn't appropriate for a certain age group. Reviewers try to be as critical as they can in providing their reviews, always inserting some wording in the description that gives it a downside, such as repetitive use of "iffy content" in reviews and blogs.
  3. They could be hypocritical sometimes.
    1. The most common hypocritical message is the "kids should not get screen time" excuse. They heavily promote their ideology of limiting children's screen time even after the COVID-19 pandemic, through their blogs[4] and their digital citizenship lessons categorized into Media Balance and Well-Being[5]. However, they created a blog called Why We Shouldn't Demonize Kids' Screen Time which is contrary to the aforementioned message.
    2. Doom 3 was given a 1/5 because of the game not being appropriate for children (when at the time the star ratings for their older reviews were affected by age appropriateness). Yet they give every Grand Theft Auto game either a 4/5 or a 5/5 on CSM. Even Dead Space 2 got a perfect five. Another example is that they gave SpongeBob a 3/5 for not being educational. Yet they gave The Loud House a 4/5 and there's nothing educational in that show.
    3. They believe in protecting the privacy of minors, yet they believe that parents should violate the privacy of minors by monitoring their Internet use which is brazen hypocrisy. Not to mention, they promote the violation of children's freedom of expression by parents via overpromotion of parental restrictions and surveillance on minors' use of media.
  4. Recently they have a paid subscription service (where non-subscribers can only read up to 3 reviews per month) called Common Sense Media Plus. The monthly and yearly cost is too overpriced and unnecessary as the site is only for looking up reviews and not something more worthwhile such as streaming shows/movies!

The website

  1. It is easily like IGN, except it reviews a bit of everything and from a parent's perspective (not from a journalist's):
    1. Some writers point out every little bad thing in a show they don't like, because it often doesn't support their political opinions. But they fail to mention major things in shows they do like, because they want to promote it and their political opinions. Then they give it 5 stars and mislead parents into letting their children watch it. This especially happens with one "writer" named Emily Ashby, and they rate content containing sexual misconduct against men positively because of their opinions, bashing entertainment that supports men's rights.
    2. Any websites, media, and articles that discredit politicians they don't like are immediately given five stars.
    3. Like IGN, it's at times a slave to Electronic Arts and Activision.
    4. For instance, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 was given 3/5. Common Sense Media has also automatically given any Call of Duty game and Star Wars Battlefront II (EA) 4/5.
    5. The 2016 Ghostbusters game got 3/5 from Common Sense Media.
  2. The writers write things like they have a negative opinion just because it's not appropriate for kids, or because it doesn't have any morals or educational value.
  3. Speaking of morals and educational value, they try so hard to find lessons and educational value into everything and seems to believe that everything will influence children. They think that every show must be educational and criticize ones that entertain rather than educate, due to their ideology on promoting educational values. Sometimes, they give niche audience shows a 4 or 5/5 solely because they are educational, which has no effect on the quality of a show.
    1. They gave A Christmas Story 5/5 because Ralphie "learned his lesson on swearing."
    2. It has also given Home Alone 4/5 because "it shows that kids can do just fine home alone and it shows that violence is a good way to solve problems." In reality, it is a bad idea to leave one's child behind when going on vacation. Additionally, if burglars break into your house, call the police.
    3. It gave Toddlers and Tiaras 2/5 but listed nothing about child abuse in their review. Judging by the review, they seem to have given it an extra star because it might teach children about pageants. Education is most certainly nowhere more important than having toddlers being sexualized, abused and treated like fashion accessories.
    4. They also gave Teen Titans Go! a 3/5 in positive messages, despite the show teaching children bad lessons and morals.
    5. Their review of Codename: Kids Next Door is a particularly bad offender, as they gave it a 1/5, referring to the series as "slapstick plus" and ignorantly claiming that it's little more than mean-spirited behavior and excessive violence.
    6. They gave 13 Reasons Why a 4/5, even though the show is infamous and controversial for glamourizing suicide into thinking it's a good thing, when it really isn't.
    7. Similarly, they gave The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! a 1/5 for stereotyping Italians, which is ironic, considering Captain Lou Albano was Italian-American.
    8. Chad (2021) got a 4/5 despite the show being very mean-spirited and controversial at itself, as well as the show having characters committing felonies, which is pretty unfair compared to other shows that got lower ratings due to this.
    9. They even gave the Jim Carrey movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective a 1/5 because it's "dumb-humor" and it doesn't really have any "positive messages" despite it being an OK movie in general. They also said it was "filled with gross-out humor", despite it mostly being slapstick comedy or just silly. (There is a scene where Ace throws up, but thankfully none is shown. The scene is also quite transphobic and hasn't aged well.)
    10. They gave many good shows including all 4 TMNT Animated Programs, a 2/5, saying that if it is not educational, they will get a bad score.
    11. They gave Crash of Cars a 1/5, even though the cars don't have any drivers visible in them, only shoot "blobs", and no blood/gore is shown.
    12. They gave the childrens' animated series Eliot Kid a 2/5, which is reasonable because the show's not very good in general, but it is because the protagonist's adventures involve breaking the rules. Bruh!
    13. They gave Oggy and the Cockroaches a 2/5, mostly because characters get electrocuted, exploded and burnt. Also it's mentioned that there is toilet humor in the show too, which is true but actually it's not used as often as told here.
    14. They also gave XXX: State of the Union a 3/5 while XXX: Return of Xander Cage got a 2/5, despite many xXx fans considering State of the Union to be far inferior to Return of Xander Cage.
  4. They are also overly sensitive sometimes, believing that slight crushes, relationships, and kissing in children's media count as "sexual". They also seem to think all insults and slang terms for defecation are inappropriate for children's media such as "stupid", "dumb", "jerk" "poop", "idiot", "shut up", "darn it", "heck" (which is literally supposed to replace the profane word "hell"), "loser" and even "hopscotch" count as profanity.
  5. Whenever you search for something and you are not subscribed, most of the time, when you finally get to the page, an annoying low-quality pop-up appears telling you to subscribe in order to continue, and blocks the entire view of the page.
  6. Most reviews are biased and they appear nostalgia-pandering as seem to give almost every children's and/or classic movie, TV show or video game a good rating, and barely pay much attention to whether or not it is actually good:
    1. Their review of the 1995 Mortal Kombat film is biased.
    2. Homestar Runner got a 15+, and the review is vague and short, only being two sentences long.[6] As noted, the reviews also oppose the review. A post on Reddit mocks this as well.
    3. Their reviews for Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong are extremely biased. As they gave Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong a 2/5 just because they were focused more on the monsters and action and didn't have a complex plot. Do they seriously want a melodramatic soap opera about love triangles and politics in a giant monster movie?
    4. They are ridiculously biased towards Disney. They always give Disney movies and TV shows a 4/5 or 5/5 just because they are Disney. Even some mediocre or bad Disney movies like Chicken Little or Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience have good scores (more specifically a 3/5)!
    5. They gave several Chucky films a 2 or 1 star rating just because it's "dumb", such as:
      • The 1988 film Child's Play[7]
      • Curse of Chucky[8]
  7. As for media aimed at teenagers and adults, Common Sense Media tends to treat them like children's media as well and hardly ever gives them positive reviews.
  8. They have even stated that SuperMarioLogan is "your basic online nightmare for parents of young kids" which is not a problem because not everything on YouTube is for kids.
  9. Most lists are poorly made or biased:
    1. Their "10 Worst TV Role Models" list includes Seth MacFarlane characters, even though his shows are not even intended for children. Heck, even CSM knows that by giving his shows 14-16+ age ratings.
    2. Their annual video game alternatives tend to be a joke. For example, in the 2014 list Lego Marvel Super Heroes as a substitute for Grand Theft Auto V, even though it feels nothing like the latter, and Lego City Undercover would've been a better choice, since the whole game was meant to be a spoof of GTA, even if they may have mistook Lego City Undercover for Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
  10. Sometimes they give false information to their pages, which are most likely due to poor research on the subject, especially considering that sites like Wikipedia are editable by everyone:
    1. In their "Violent Video Games of 2013 List", they put Gears of War 3 in it even though that game was released in 2011.
    2. They think Avatar: The Last Airbender is anime. Anime means cartoon in Japanese, which means that an anime is a cartoon made in Japan, not because it has a detailed art style with jerky movements. In fact, Avatar is a Western cartoon just like SpongeBob SquarePants. Similarly, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, despite being animated in Flash, can be called an anime because it is Japanese.
    3. The Battle Cats' app details section is truly nightmare fuel, with a lot of false information on the game.[9]
  11. The age ratings of some media are unfitting, like giving Warcraft 3 an 18+ when it has a T rating, or giving Silicon Valley, Schitt's Creek and F Is for Family 14+ ratings even though all of them are rated TV-MA in the US. It may've been lower due to 2016 revamp, as Mad Max: Fury Road originally had a 18+, but reduced to 16+ after the revamp. Prior the revamp, they would give M-rated games 18+ (originally "not for kids") most of the time.
  12. Half of the things they say about the YouTubers is just either to keep hating on with reasons that aren't true or just pure nonsense (which according to them is actually "common sense" apparently).
  13. They practically gave up on reviewing music, since their last reviewed album was 1000 Forms of Fear by Sia, released back in 2014.
  14. Some of their posters they use on their reviews lack research. A prominent one is used in the Cartoon Network website review, which is normal at first glance, but if one looks closely, SpongeBob is in it for some reason (although he is a Nickelodeon character).
  15. Being an American non-profit company, CSM rarely reviews content from other countries.
  16. They gave the controversial French film Cuties on Netflix a 4/5 and gave it a 15+ age rating and kneeled to the extremely hypocritical message of the film. There isn't anything else to say about that.
  17. They claim they review websites, movies, TV shows, apps, video games, books, and even music, but they barely ever review books, apps, websites, or (and especially rarely) music. Most of them only review movies, TV shows, or video games.
  18. As mentioned before, prior to the revamp, they give almost every M-rated game (also known as 16 or 18 in the UK) an 18+ rating, despite most M-rated games being suitable for most teens or even mature kids. One example is they gave Halo: The Master Chief Collection an 18+ rating, even though kids as young as 8 years old would probably be able to handle it. They also had "violence" marked as 5/5 (on Halo MCC) when it really isn't realistic, as you're mainly killing aliens instead of humans and most of "blood and gore" is purple or blue.
    • Ironically, they gave Halo 5: Guardians, which has pretty much the same levels of violence as the rest of the Halo games, a 13+ rating. They also gave it a perfect 5, despite it basically being the weakest game in the series.
    • This could also mean that they did this to avoid criticism from parents that are against Cuties which they created the subscription service after they reviewed it.
  19. Some of the articles are either short, poorly made or incomplete, such as the ones for Doom 3[10] and Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned.[11]
  20. They gave the movie Foodfight! a 2 star rating on their website which is considered one of the worst movies of all time, while movies that look superior compared to it such as Escape from Planet Earth was given a 1 star rating just because it is "violent" and forgettable, while Foodfight has tons more iffy and even worse stuff compared to Escape from Planet Earth.
  21. They gave Jacksepticeye's channel a 1 out of 5 because of his swearing and innapropiate content when he could just be himself like why is is this site being so judgmental in fact Jacksepticeye even responded to this review making a video titled "This website reviews Youtubers".
  22. Their review of Me Myself and Irene was very biased, giving it a 1 out of 5 stars, with the headline, "The Farelly's Strike again; avoid this awful film".
  23. They gave the movie The Frighteners an 18+ when in fact the film tried to avoid the R rating and the only scene was a headshot scene that gave it an R while both the parents and kids give it a 13+ common sense right?
  24. Misleading dots that are overly sensitive, They gave sex a 5 dot for Final Destination 3 when there are only a scene with the tanning bed and a scene where a guy takes a photo of a woman's undies I mean that is only two scenes!
  25. This review is so empty and looks like it has been written by a 10 year old, they gave all sex,language,violence and drug not present to a PG-13 movie:

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Sometimes it provides good information, such as listing actual inappropriate moments in media rather than just slight crushes or mild insults, and their articles sometimes give good tips on how to choose good media for children (for instance, how to take your kid to a movie theater for the first time).
  2. It allows people to put their own reviews.
  3. The reason that they mark normal non-physical relationships or general insults as profanity or sex can be attributed to the fact that they need to be really careful because there are parents out there who hate that stuff and don't want their children getting exposed to it.
  4. Their "expert review" videos, while they don’t show up a lot and are biased, are fairly well-edited.
  5. Some of their reviews are actually reasonable


Despite favorable reviews from some parents, Common Sense Media has been panned by the majority of the internet, due to poor research, frequent errors, the introduction of costly paywalls, being too picky/gullible about lessons and educational values (like the majority of the reviews for Oggy and the Cockroaches), forcing parents to become more cautious about children's media usage, pitting children against parents, and indoctrinating children from their K-12 digital citizenship program.[12]





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