Common Sense MediaBy Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media editor
Instagram. Snapchat. Facebook. Everyday there's some new thing we parents need to figure out. Getting up to speed -- plus giving our kids guidance and limits -- is a daily challenge.
You don't have to become an expert to help your kids make good decisions. Just get involved in their media lives. By engaging with them, you can help them use these tools responsibly, respectfully, and safely. Here are some ways to be a media-savvy parent this year:
1. Check out your kids' social sites. From videogames to apps -- even music -- nearly everything has a social component these days. Your kids may enjoy posting status updates, uploading photos, IMing, commenting, gaming or any number of online sharing activities with friends. Ask them to show you where they visit, what they do there, who they talk to, what they upload. Make sure they know the rules for safe, responsible, respectful online communication.
2. Take their games seriously. Give their favorite game a whirl -- or just ask them to recount their gaming experiences. (In fact, once they start, you may not be able to get them to stop). Use the opportunity to ask them questions about the game, like choices they made, puzzles they solved, or strategies they tried. You may be surprised at how much thought goes into their gameplay.
3. Share music. With MP3 players and headphones, music is often a solitary experience. But it doesn't have to be. Download some of your favorite oldies but goodies for your kids. Then ask them to play something for you that you've never heard. Have a conversation about the music.
4. Use YouTube's advanced features. Every kid loves YouTube, but we all know that there are plenty of videos that aren't age-appropriate. Telling your kids to stay off probably won't do any good, so learn how to manage it. Take advantage of YouTube's built-in content filter, Safety Mode, which blocks mature content. Then set up Channel Subscriptions, Playlists, and Watch Later feeds which give you greater control over what your kids watch.
5. Take control of your TV. There are lots of ways to exert more control over what your kids watch. You can use a digital video recorder, on-demand programming, and websites like Hulu to watch what you want when you want it. This allows you to be choosier about what your kids see. You can preview the shows, fast forward through the ads, use the mute button, and avoid the stuff you don't want your kids to watch.
6. Research your kids' apps. It's kind of amazing what apps can do. But you have to set some rules around downloading or you may wind up with some age-inappropriate apps. Always read through the app description (and check our reviews) before installing. Play with your kid a few times so you know what the app is capable of -- some offer in-game purchasing, connect with other people, or use your location.
7. Establish a digital code of conduct. When you give your kids digital devices -- cell phones, computers, and other personal electronics -- set rules around responsible, respectful usage. Check in on where your kids are going online -- look at browser histories, set appropriate age filters, and check out the parental controls. Teach your kids the basics of safe searching. Don't let them figure it all out by themselves.
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:www.commonsense.org.