How to pick age-appropriate content for your child

Dad and children using a tablet


Born into a world of constant connectivity, today’s children have access to a never-before-seen wealth of online content. A bottomless pit of apps, videos, music, and games guarantees that even the most voracious content consumer won’t go hungry.

We parents have the complex task of ensuring that our children have a healthy and safe online experience. An important part of this is making sure they consume age-appropriate content.

What is age-appropriate content and why is it important?

Age-appropriate content refers to apps, videos, games, and other online media that are suitable for a defined age group based on typical developmental stages, cognitive abilities, emotional maturity, and social awareness. 

What a child does online is just as important as the amount of time they spend online. Although reducing overall screen time has its benefits, parents realize that it can be a losing battle and would rather play a more active role in their children’s digital lives. Consuming age-appropriate content can support a child’s learning and development while protecting them from things their young minds aren’t ready for.

Our 2023 report on families’ digital habits showed us that the risk of exposure to adult content or pornography was parents’ main motivator to monitor their children’s devices. When children are allowed to view content inappropriate for their age and developmental level, it can lead to stress, anxiety, embarrassment, shame, and other negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


Mother and daughter using a tablet


How to pick age-appropriate content for your child

When most of us were children, the main way we could view age-inappropriate content age would be to stay awake and watch late-night TV – with the sound low so parents couldn’t hear!

With the internet and all its dark corners available at any time and place, parents have to be much more informed and involved to protect their children from questionable material. 

Here are our 5 tips to help you choose age-appropriate content for your child:


1. Check age ratings… but do your research!

Like with movies, apps and games have age ratings that recommend how old a child should be before they use them. Age ratings are usually given by the developers or creators, the store or site where the content is acquired, and, in the case of games, the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) or the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

These “official” age ratings can be confusing as they don’t always match up, and while they can be useful when deciding what’s appropriate for your child, they should be used as a guide only. 

Qustodio has a dedicated app safety guides section where parents can check the appropriateness of apps, games, and other media, and see unbiased age recommendations. You can continue your research by reading a range of parent reviews and checking other resources like Common Sense Media


2. Consider your child’s developmental age

While age ratings can be useful when deciding whether content is appropriate for your child, these guidelines may not always align with their developmental stage.

A child’s developmental age measures how they function on a social, physical, intellectual, cultural, and emotional level – and these can differ greatly from their chronological age. 

As you know your son or daughter better than anyone, you might have to make a judgment call on whether or not a piece of content is okay for them. For example, if your child’s maturity level is greater than their chronological age suggests, you might allow them to view videos meant for slightly older children. 


3. Encourage open conversation

Chat with your kid about their favorite YouTuber, TikToker, or Twitch streamer. By engaging in casual conversations about their online activities you’ll learn more about the type of content they like and can help them find related, age-appropriate material. 

More importantly, these conversations give them a safe space to express their worries and ask for advice when they come across something online that makes them feel uncomfortable.

If you want to start having positive conversations about technology with your children, consider creating a family digital agreement.


4. Try the content yourself 

Although it’s not always possible, especially with older children, previewing content allows you to assess it based on your family’s values and spot any potential problems – some that may not be mentioned in descriptions or reflected in official age ratings. 

Watching content or playing games together is a great way to check the suitability of the content while bonding with your child. You’ll also be able to see how the material affects their mood and behavior in real-time. 


5. Stay informed with the help of parental controls

Not every child will be open about their online activities, making it harder for a parent to ensure they’re consuming content suitable for their age and maturity level.

Many families use a parental control app like Qustodio to keep an eye on what their kids watch, read, or play, to make sure it’s appropriate and safe, and if not, limit or block access to the material.

With Qustodio, you can be as hands-on or hands-off as you like. You can:

  • Allow your child to access pre-approved apps, games, and sites while blocking inappropriate and problematic ones.
  • Monitor your child’s search activity, YouTube views, social media usage, and more.
  • Set screen time limits to encourage a healthy relationship with tech and preserve family time.    
  • Get instant alerts when your child accesses anything inappropriate and pause the internet at the touch of a button.


By guiding your child towards age-appropriate content, you can help to protect them from images, language, and themes they’re not yet ready for while supporting their learning and development. 

With 24/7 connectivity, making sure children only view and interact with age-appropriate content is a challenge for every parent. As official age ratings are not always reliable, we need to take an active role in our children’s digital lives.

We hope these tips help, but like age ratings, they are recommendations. Ultimately, you know your child best and there’s no one better suited to judge what’s right for your family. 

Qustodio dashboard | kids screen time

How can Qustodio help protect your family?

Qustodio is the best way to keep your kids safe online and help them create healthy digital habits. Our parental control tools ensure they don't access inappropriate content or spend too much time in front of their screens.

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