Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Your Kids, Your Rules: How to Tell Your Sitter What's Not OK

    By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Reviewer
    With its abundant outdoor play area and passionate teachers, my kids' school seemed like an oasis from the modern world of electronic entertainment. But when I picked my kids up from their after-school program, I was sometimes surprised to find them watching movies instead of drawing, reading, or playing outside. At first I chalked it up to the fact that the rain had made the play area pretty muddy. But when it happened again on a sunny day, I got angry.

    Not only do they get enough time with movies and TV on the weekends, but I didn't like the idea that I was paying someone to watch them watch movies. Besides, I didn't have any control over which movies my kids were seeing. What if something scared my son? What if my daughter had questions about what she just saw? What kinds of guidance were they getting after the movies ended? Was I going to have to leave all of this to chance?

    Despite feeling a bit nervous about taking my

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  • 6 Fresh Ways to Clean Up Your Kids' Media

    By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media Reviewer
    thinkstock One of the biggest surprises about raising kids in today's media-and-tech-filled world is that it's not the shadowy, dangerous place we've been warned about. Yes, there's iffy stuff out there, but much of what kids can discover is enriching, inspiring, practical, helpful, and fun.

    That doesn't mean that you can let your kids loose with no limits or guidance. A big part of parenting today involves knowing what your kids are doing online, teaching them to be responsible and respectful, and helping them make good choices. In other words, teaching them to participate constructively and age appropriately.

    Spurred by new research and new thinking -- and a strong impulse for spring cleaning -- we're challenging the conventional wisdom about managing kids' entertainment.

    Brush the cobwebs off the old thinking, and usher in some fresh new ideas about how to manage everything from the Internet to iTunes.


    Old think: TV

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  • Road Trip Music

    Being on the road -- whether for a family holiday or a long commute -- requires a certain kind of soundtrack. Songs about freedom and yearning, especially if they're easy to sing along to, make perfect highway partners. Check out these tunes for some road-friendly picks.

  • Spring Cleaning Your Family’s Media Habits: A How-to Guide

    By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media Reviewer
    If the long winter months have sent your kid into the arms of Facebook, Angry Birds, or Sesame Street reruns, it's time for a little spring cleaning. Thankfully, cleaning up your media act is a lot more fun than figuring out how all those insect wings landed in that weird space in the attic.

    The first step is taking stock of the stuff your kid is watching, playing, and downloading. We'll help you figure out what to keep (the good stuff), what to toss (the not-so-good stuff), and what you, as a parent, can "give away" (support strategies for every age).

    Stay tuned for the next installment, where we'll tackle the issues that come up and provide handy resources for problem solving.

    Ages 2-4

    Movies, television, Internet: If your toddler's day includes Yo Gabba Gabba for breakfast, an app for lunch, and a Cars chaser after dinner, you may be over relying on flashy screens to keep your little one entertained. It's an easy pattern

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  • Using TV to Teach Lessons

    By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Reviewer
    When kids are little, the lessons they get from their favorite TV shows are pretty simple. Angelina Ballerina helps a girl in dance class and demonstrates how to be a good friend. Thomas the Tank Engine asks for help delivering his freight, and he shows how cooperation can help solve problems.

    But when kids get older, the messages that TV delivers aren't always so straightforward.

    Television targeted toward kids ages 9-11 often takes an edgy approach to appeal to an age group that's starting to test boundaries, assert independence, and maybe even provoke. These shows are also competing for eyeballs in a crowded field of TV shows, websites, cell phones, and more. But you can use these shows -- from iCarly and Big Time Rush to Ben 10 and Regular Show -- to help make television useful, positive, and something that reinforces your values.

    When you can, watch along with your kids. Take advantage of the opportunity to share your

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  • 3 Big Rules Your Kids May Be Breaking Online

    By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Reviewer

    For those of us who grew up with dial-up modems, it can be hard to understand what the digital age is like for today's kids. Access to information is literally at their fingertips. But easy access reduces the time it takes to think through your actions -- and makes it easier to do not-so-great things. Like copying other people's work and calling it your own. Or downloading copyrighted music or movies illegally. And the list goes on. Part of the problem is that kids may not even realize that what they're doing is illegal. Here are the top three online offenses -- and how to make sure your kid's online activities stay on the safe side.

    Plagiarism and high-tech cheating

    What it is: Copying someone else's work and calling it your own. In Common Sense Media's 2009 study of high-tech cheating among kids 13-17, 38 percent said they'd copied text from the web to pass off as their work. And more than 35 percent said they'd used

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  • How NOT to Get Unfriended by Your Kid

    By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media Reviewer
    Technology has been a great boon to parenting -- we can now keep in touch with our kids via cell phone when they're out of reach, send a handy text when we we're running late to pick them up, even see photos of them posted on a summer camp website that reassure us they're having a good time.

    But is all the access we have -- thanks to our gadgets and the Web -- helping our kids grow into independent, responsible people? Or are we crossing the line from caring to intruding? Is it about safety ... or snooping? My teen daughter unfriended me when she felt I'd been checking her Facebook page too often, and she changed her handle on Twitter when she didn't want me reading her tweets!

    Here are a few guidelines for a common sense approach to tech-assisted parenting that balances safety concerns with kids' privacy and helps foster autonomy and trust while staying connected.

    Be a good "friend" on Facebook
    Some parents insist on being

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  • Kony 2012: When Do-Gooding Goes Viral

    By Shira Lee Katz, Common Sense Media Reviewer

    Kids viewed, shared, liked, disliked, and commented. They even criticized. By the time parents found out about Kony 2012 -- from their kids, no less -- the video had already gone viral. Way viral. Parents could only play catch-up when it came to educating themselves about generations of Ugandan children who had been forced to take up arms and the accompanying campaign to put warlord Joseph Kony under arrest. As of March 16, the video has received almost 80 million views on YouTube. Most supporters are young people. Coordinated nationwide events to bolster campaign efforts are planned for April. Now, reflect. When was the last time you heard about a major news story from your kids? What's more, when was the last time they showed genuine passion for a weighty social cause?

    The "Kony effect" is clearly cause for celebration on one hand. What parent doesn't want kids who are informed and take action to eliminate social injustices? The rub

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  • Breaking Your Mom's Rules

    By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Reviewer

    One of the biggest challenges of being a mom or dad today is choosing which of our parents' rules to keep and which to toss. Finding our own style when it comes to 21st-century media management faces an extra hurdle because the media landscape we grew up in was so incredibly different (no Internet!) from our kids' experience.

    Some of our parents' rules still translate -- my mom limited the amount of after school TV I could watch, and I do the same with my kids. But when it came to books, she was totally hands-off. I aim to take a more active role in steering my kids toward the good stuff and away from the V.C. Andrews novels that I used to read.

    Our early experiences with media -- from TV shows and movies to websites and video games -- make a big impression. And, as parents, we have a lot of control over our kids' relationship with media. What we say and do now might one day be what our kids say and do with our grandkids.

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  • My Kids' First IPad

    By Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media Reviewer

    Before there were any apps for kids -- before there was an App Store, even -- my 2-year-old son was quite handy with the iPhone. Incoming call interrupting his Sesame Street podcast? Decline! Not saying this is good or bad -- it just ... is. Both my ex-husband and I tend to be early adopters, and in general we both embrace technology. This is reflected in the way we raise our kids.

    So when the iPad launched, we were all over it. And while our kids have had other electronics of their own -- Leapsters, Nintendo DSes, a laptop computer, and now a Kindle -- the iPad was different. It presented amazing new opportunities, but it also raised new questions for us as parents. If you're planning to buy a new iPad for your family, consider these questions and suggestions.

    Think about ownership. Deciding who the device "belongs" to can help head off problems, foster a sense of responsibility, and provide a basis for accountability. Is

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