Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Know that Face? Facebook Does.

    No doubt about it, sharing pictures on Facebook is a major pastime for teens. And if they're careful with what they post and use privacy settings (a big if!), enjoying friends' pics is part of the fun of social networking. But Facebook's new face-recognition software can now automatically recognize people in photos -- and add their name to the picture -- dramatically increasing the number of places that your teen's photos can pop up.

    How it Works

    Called Tag Suggestions, the program digitally scans the faces in photos and suggests who they are so that you can tag them. The company claims that this feature makes it a lot easier for users to label and share photos. But it also makes it a lot easier for teens' online identity to get away from them.

    [[See Protecting Personal Privacy Online for tips on setting privacy controls.]]

    Let's say your teen daughter went to a party at a friend's last night. Everyone was taking photos and uploading them to their Facebook pages.

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  • TV's 5 Worst Role Models for Kids

    What Are Kids Learning from TV Characters?

    When it comes to sex, violence, drinking, bullying, and other sensitive topics, you want messages about right and wrong to come from you -- not, say, Snooki from Jersey Shore.

    But surprisingly, Snooki might be more of an ally than you think. Talking about TV characters and their choices can be a great way to start conversations with your kids about their own behavior. We encourage you to get familiar with the characters kids are watching -- whether you love or hate them -- and sneak in a little parental direction between Snooki's visits to the bar.

    1. Snooki, Jersey Shore
    Why's she's bad:
    Not only is she not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but she drinks constantly and to excess. And while her drinking sometimes gets her arrested or leads to iffy sexual behavior, she gets lots of attention (and a big paycheck) for her antics.
    Why it matters: Kids who watch shows with alcohol use are more likely to try drinking than those

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  • Which Social Network Can Be a Nightmare for Teens -- and Parents?

    What's one of the most important things to a typical tween or teen girl? Her friends, of course. And when it comes to her social circle, what do many girls care about more than anything? What their friends think of them. Enter Formspring, a comment-and-reply social networking site that lets kids post their deepest, darkest opinions completely anonymously.

    Formspring was a running four-month-long nightmare for my daughter, her friends, and extended school community -- and we still battle my daughter's "need" to know what her friends post on the site. The kids were all being incredibly vicious to each other, as well as asking really creepy questions. What made it all creepier is that the questions could have been asked by the boy they sit next to in History ... or by a 40-year-old man, since anyone can access Formspring.

    My daughter was so addicted that she kept reactivating her account behind our backs, even though the consequences were severe each time -- one week of no phone and no

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  • A Safe Place to Play Online

    Online virtual worlds offer kids a place to explore, discover, and play with friends. The best of these vast playgrounds provide a new kind of social experience that can be healthy, positive, and educational -- when used with age-appropriate rules and time limits.

    We love the online worlds that immerse kids in a specific subject, like ecology or animals, because kids can pursue interests more deeply and progress at their own pace. Here are some of our pre-screened faves.

    For Younger Kids:

    Top picks for Online Virtual Worlds. Some of these sites send out updates on your kids' virtual game experiences, which you can use as conversation starters to learn how your kid is interacting.

    For older kids:

    This game-based virtual world encourages kids to go green with games about recycling and composting.

    Innerstar University
    Devotees of American Girl dolls can maximize their investment at this safe, positive site with pre-scripted chat.

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  • Why Manners Matter

    Courtesy Counts
    Modern-Day Primers on Politeness

    Courtesy Counts

    Every generation seems to bemoan the erosion of manners. But while today's parents can happily bid a fond farewell to old-fashioned notions like "children should be seen and not heard," politeness still has its place.

    Kids naturally develop social skills in the preschool years, so it's a perfect time to teach and reinforce social lessons. The books below serve as modern-day primers on courtesy, graciousness, and respect that will help kids make and keep friends -- skills that will serve them well their whole lives.

    Modern-Day Primers on Politeness

    It's Hard to Be Five
    The tug and pull of a 5-year-old's struggle with his "control buttons" is clearly echoed in the book's rhyming language, which kids will surely enjoy.

    Interrupting Chicken
    Parents can use this book to remind their kids not to interrupt -- or just laugh with them at the little red chicken's bedtime antics.

    Mind Your Manners, B.B.

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  • What Summer Movies Are Worth Your Family's Dime?

    Must-See Summer Movies
    With so many sequels, comic book-hero adventures, and big-budget action and animated flicks hitting multiplexes near you this summer, we've provided a month-by-month cheat sheet to help you with your moviegoing choices.


    Release Date: May 6
    Target Age: Tweens and Teens
    What's the Buzz: Even in the pantheon of superheroes, Thor is unique because he's an actual god. Starring Chris Hemsworth and Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, this is one action adventure that's sure to appeal equally to boys and girls, not to mention grown-ups curious about director Kenneth Branagh delving into the genre.

    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
    Release Date: May 20
    Target Age: Tweens and Teens
    What's the Buzz: Yo, ho -- Johnny Depp returns for the fourth time as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's popular pirate franchise. Gone are Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, but Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane are on board for this high-seas

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  • Diary of a TV-Free Mom

    My colleagues here at Common Sense Media decided it would be hilarious if they tortured me with a week without television. I'm the TV editor, so I watch a lot, and while I'm judicious in my selections for my kids, I admit that they watch a lot, too. But I'm always up for a challenge, so with the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood's annual Screen-Free Week coming up April 18-24, I've taken the bait. One week, no screens. For entertainment at least -- I'll still be online for work, checking weather, monitoring my bank balance -- but otherwise, nothing.

    I'm a little freaked out.

    It's not like I can't handle cutting back on my new obsession with The Killing. That's what the DVR is for. My main challenge will be figuring out how to amuse my kids when I have things that need to get done. Like taking a shower, paying bills, folding laundry, cooking dinner. Somehow, just knowing I have TV in my back pocket, even if I don't use it, makes those moments when my 4-year-old is cranky

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  • TV-Free Survival: Days 1-3

    Day One -- A Groggy Morning

    The first morning of our TV-free week didn't go exactly as planned. Despite extensive preparations -- including several new books from the library, audio books, kid-friendly podcasts, art projects, and bowls of cereal set out the night before -- my husband and I still did not get the sleeping-in time that comes with Saturday morning cartoons.

    While the kids' initial reaction to screen-free week had been filled with mournful sobs and emphatic declarations of "That's a bad plan!" -- they soon built up excitement around the idea. I think that might have had something to do with how early they woke up.

    6:14 a.m. As I stumbled through the dining room to hook up the iPod for my son, my daughter was already engrossed in a book. "I love reading!" she said. If the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood had been there filming a reality show, this would have been their golden moment.

    6:17 a.m. Back in bed, the covers pulled over my head, when my son --

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  • Favorite Movie Moms

    Whether she's offering her kids a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or an important lesson about growing up, there are few characters as compelling as a good movie mom. This list includes some of our favorites -- check one out for your next family movie night.

    The Princess Diaries
    Terrific fun for girls and their families, too.

    The Sound of Music
    Outstanding family film features glorious music.

    The Incredibles
    Top-notch, action-packed fun for the entire family.

    Freaky Friday
    Mother-daughter switch is fun comedic chaos.

    Get the full list of some of our Favorite Movie Moms.

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  • Don't Mess With These Movie Moms

    Move over Iron Man. Moms are made of strong stuff too and these movies more than prove it. Our cinematic selection of don't-mess-with-me moms includes the unflappable matriarchs (Steel Magnolias, My Big Fat Greek Wedding), super heroes (Elastagirl in The Incredibles), super spies (Spy Kids), moms protective of their kids (Leigh Ann in The Blind Side), and even willing to cross oceans for them to keep them from harm (The Triplets of Belleville).

    The Incredibles
    Incredible and action packed fun for the entire family.

    Spy Kids
    Just the right combination of fantasy and comedy.

    Freaky Friday
    Mother-daughter switch is fun comedic chaos.

    My Big Fat Greek Wedding
    Perfect sleepover movie for tweens (and moms!).

    The Triplets of Belleville
    Astonishing, outlandish, and full of laughs.

    Get the full list and reviews of each movie from our Tough Mom picks.

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