Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • What Kids Can Learn from Shia, Kanye, Miley, and Justin Bieber

    Four life lessons from social media's biggest blunders.Four life lessons from social media's biggest blunders.By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media parenting editor

    You know that moment when your kids are learning something new -- crossing the street, say, or riding a bike -- and you see it go terribly wrong? Maybe the light changes, or their wheel turns the wrong way. Your brain goes into slow motion and you envision yourself flying through the air, arms flailing, yelling, "NOOOOOOOOO."

    It's the same with kids and social media. They may not be new to technology, but -- because they're kids -- they can't foresee how things could go wrong. They can't fathom that their oh-so-hilarious tweet might offend, that they'd get caught plagiarizing, or a friend might betray them by sharing a private photo. And this time, you're not there.


    To the rescue: celebrity's social media mistakes, which provide ready-made cautionary tales pretty much on the daily. When Shia LaBeouf takes to Twitter, you can almost see his handlers flying through the air, arms flailing, shouting, "NOOOOOOOOO!" Unfortunately for

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  • 2014: Where Nerds Are Cool and Video Games Help Kids Learn

    2014 tech trends for kids2014 tech trends for kidsBy Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media parenting editor

    From the iPotty to The Smurfs 2, 2013 gave us some real stinkers. And attention-grabbing stories about cyberbullying and sexting seemed to dominate the news.

    But for a lot of parents, the negative headlines don't track with their families' experience of technology. Many folks are seeing their kids learn, grow, and benefit from innovations in the tech world.

    Maybe it's all part of a rising trend in general positivity generated by sites like Upworthy and Do Something. Maybe parents are learning how to better manage their kids' media lives. And maybe -- just maybe -- kids who have grown up immersed in technology are smarter about the way the digital world should work. Whatever it is, we're excited about these surprisingly inspiring kids' tech trends for 2014.

    Hacking is a cool kid's hobby. No longer a lonely bastion for nerds, computer programming is suddenly stylish -- and social. With programs such as Scratch, Gamestar

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  • 5 Budget-Friendly Gift Ideas

    Kids' gift ideas that won't break the bank.Kids' gift ideas that won't break the bank.By Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media editor

    If you're like a lot of people shopping for kids this holiday, you want to give kids stuff they'll love without breaking the bank. Using digital media in your shopping can actually save you money on gift giving. Check out these ideas:

    • Go for board games -- digital and old-school. If you have a tablet such as an iPad, adding classic board game apps -- Scrabble, Monopoly, The Game of Life, and more -- can be less expensive than buying the real thing. But the old-school versions of these same titles are lots of fun -- and generally inexpensive, too. Whatever format you choose, family game night can be a budget-friendly entertainment experience.

    • Make your own gifts. Creative websites and apps let kids make cool projects as they learn new technology. With apps like Animoto and Magisto, kids can create videos for free and send links to relatives for the holidays. Kids can design their own scrapbooks, comic books, and more with apps like Book
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  • What to Read Next: New Holiday Books for Kids

    Read about young Santa, a delinquent tween, and Tolkien's letters to the North Pole. Read about young Santa, a delinquent tween, and Tolkien's letters to the North Pole. By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media book editor

    Finding the right book for your kid can be a challenge. But if you guess right and keep new ones coming, you may be on your way to raising a lifelong reader.


    Check out our Essential Books for Kids and Teens guide to find more than 150 of our perennial favorites. Plus, every month we highlight a few books for different ages, including some exceptional titles that could be the perfect thing to pique kids' interest, get them hooked on a new author, or help them rediscover an old favorite.

    Here are our picks for December:

    • For kids age 3 to 7, there's Little Santa by Jon Agee, which offers a charming origin story of Santa Claus that bears no relation to the one about St. Nicholas. Who knew that Santa grew up at the North Pole with a snow-hating family desperate to move to Florida and that even as a tyke in a red onesie he had a taste for sliding down chimneys and riding flying reindeer? With deadpan humor and appealing art in a wintry
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  • 5 Tips for Your Kid's First Trip to the Movies

    Plan on taking your kid to see Frozen this weekend? Plan on taking your kid to see Frozen this weekend?

    By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor


    Before you had kids, a trip to the movies was a no-brainer. You liked the actor or director or the movie poster was cool, so you went. Simple. But if you have little kids, you have to put a bit more thought into a visit to the multiplex, especially the first time you go. Here are some tips for making the first venture to the theater a success.

    Determine whether your kid is really ready. What's the right age to take kids to their first movie? Well, it depends on your kid. Lots of kids see their first movie around the age of 3 or 4, but some parents wait until kids are a bit older, especially if they're sensitive to loud noises or scared of the dark.

    Choose the right movie. Obviously, you want something kid-friendly -- usually, animation fits the bill. But also look for movies that are slower-paced or shorter than the average blockbuster. These kinds of movies aren't always playing in the theater, but keep your eye out for special

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  • 5 Easy Ways to Make Family Movie Night a Success

    Bond with the kids over a movie from the comfort of your couch.Bond with the kids over a movie from the comfort of your couch.By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    We say this a lot, but we think it's worth repeating: It's important to get involved in your kids media lives -- and your kids will love it too (within reason!). But helping them become critical media consumers can be easier said than done.

    What's a sure-fire way to stay involved with your kids' media picks and create an opportunity to discuss them? Host a family movie night!


    Some tips for making it work:

    1. Schedule it.
    Make it a regular date and time and don't break it. Turn off cell phones and ban multitasking during the show.


    2. Take turns choosing the movie. If you've got little kids, pre-select a group to choose from (to avoid watching Care Bears IV over and over again). If you've got teens, tell them you'll watch anything they choose as long as they return the favor when it's your turn. Enforce a "no complaining" rule.


    3. Location, location, location. Hang a sheet in the backyard, rent a projector, and sit on beach chairs on a

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  • The Essential Holiday Movie Guide

    Get the scoop on all the major winter blockbusters for kids and teens.Get the scoop on all the major winter blockbusters for kids and teens.By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer


    Winter brings all sorts of wonderful family treats: holiday decorations, shiny presents, and relatives from near and far. The season also brings some of the best movies of the year -- and kids, tweens, and teens are all in for some cinematic fun.

    Look for animated fairy tales (Frozen) and epic adaptations (Ender's Game, The Hobbit), plus teen-friendly sports comedies (Grudge Match) and superhero flicks (Thor). We'll provide detailed ratings and reviews on everything you need to know, plus suggestions for talking to your kids about what they see. Stay tuned for our full reviews, but, in the meantime, find out the buzz on each winter release so you know what movies will -- and won't -- be on your wish list.


    NOVEMBER MOVIES


    • Free Birds (Nov. 1)
      Target Age: Young kids
      What's the Buzz? What could appeal more to young moviegoers than talking animals -- specifically, the pardoned Thanksgiving turkey? Owen Wilson and Woody
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  • What to Read Next: New Kids' Books for Thanksgiving Break

    These great new reads give kids of all ages something to chew on.These great new reads give kids of all ages something to chew on.By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media editor

    Finding the right book for your kid can be a challenge. But if you guess right and keep new ones coming, you may be on your way to raising a lifelong reader.

    Check out Common Sense Media's Essential Books for Kids and Teens guide to find more than 150 of our perennial favorites. Plus, every month we highlight a few books for different ages -- some exceptional titles that could be the perfect thing to pique your kid's interest, get your reader hooked on a new author, or rediscover an old favorite.


    Here are our picks for November:

    • For kids age 3 to 7, there's Mr. Wuffles!, a wildly original picture book by Caldecott Honor-winning author David Weisner (Art & Max, Flotsam) that pits a housecat against tiny aliens who've landed in his living room in a miniature spaceship. The nearly wordless adventure mixes full-page illustrations with graphic novel-style panels to tell the story, as the aliens team up with some insects their size to get their
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  • 10 Worst TV Role Models of 2013

    Find out who made this year's list of the worst role models on TV. Find out who made this year's list of the worst role models on TV. By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media TV editor


    From Abby Lee Miller to Walter White, TV is full of wild and crazy characters who make us laugh, cry, or grit our teeth in frustration. Each year, Common Sense Media calls out the TV characters and personalities who have the most and least to offer kids and families. You'll see some familiar faces on the "worst" list (the Kardashians, for the third year in a row) and a few newbies, who may or may not stand the test of TV time.


    Even with all the new devices competing for kids' attention, regular old TV still dominates kids' screen time. That means all the characters they watch or otherwise absorb through popular culture make a big impact on kids' still-forming identities. But even the worst role models can help you start important discussions with kids about what is and isn't appropriate behavior. These talks can also help your kid become more media-savvy. Discuss the reasons why these folks get so much attention. Who makes the

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  • 31 Halloween Ideas for Kids to Play, Make, Eat, and Watch

    Get online Halloween inspiration in just a few clicks. Get online Halloween inspiration in just a few clicks. By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    Halloween is one of our favorite times of year because families can have so much fun together with -- and -- without media. From spooky movies, music, and games to fun crafts, snacks, and parties, October is a month packed with family pleasures.

    The Internet is full of things to learn and do online, too, so we culled the Web for inspiration to get kids and families learning, doing, and having fun.

    Pretty Cool Pumpkins

    Motion-Controlled Silly-String-Shooting Pumpkin
    Looking for a fun Halloween project? This is it.

    Pop Culture Pumpkin Carvings
    Nerdtastic designs that will thrill fanboys and fangirls.

    Cylon Pumpkin
    Battlestar Gallactica fans rejoice.

    How to Cook a Pumpkin
    When the holiday's over, don't toss it -- cook it!

    Costume Inspiration

    Dirty Laundry Group Costume
    Keep it clean this Halloween.

    Great Noncommercial Costumes
    Skip the mass marketed ideas, and shop your closet.

    Easy Headband Costumes
    Want a costume from the neck

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