Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Should Teachers "Friend" Their Students?

    If you teach middle or high school, chances are that a lot of your students are on Facebook or MySpace--but so are a lot of adults.

    As an educator, do you think teachers should have social networking profiles, and if so, should they "friend" their students?

    Educators that we've asked have answered everything from "Sure! Meet them where they play!" to "Heck no, that's a little too close for comfort." What do you think?

    Parents are talking about this issue over at our parent forum. See what they have to say!

  • Where Do Online Games Take Your Kids?

    Get the Most Out of Online Games

    Whether it's puzzles, shooters, or dress-up, there's a game for every interest and age. And since online games are also available wirelessly, kids can play them on any mobile device with an Internet connection. The sheer volume -- and immediacy -- of online games can be daunting to many parents. In this video, we explain the four main types of online games and give you tips on managing online games for every age.

    Many Internet games can be played within your browser and are free. Kids can simply go to the site and start playing. These are called Flash games or casual games, and they're the ones that are offered on most kids' websites.

    Next are online game portals like Miniclip and CrazyMonkey, which offer a huge array of Flash games. Many of the games on these sites aren't appropriate for all ages. Plus, they have tons of ads and contests that can carry malware and spyware.

    A step up from casual games are Massively Multiplayer

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  • Racy Jokes: Kids Are Listening (and Learning)

    American Academy of Pediatrics New Study: Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media

    Millions of kids saw Toy Story 3 earlier this summer, and many were frightened by the scene in which the toys are heading toward almost certain death on the incinerator's conveyor belt. But it was another scene in that movie that made my hair stand on end: It's when Ken first meets Barbie, and the song Dream Weaver ("I believe you can get me through the night") starts to play. Ken says to Barbie, "Love your legwarmers," and Barbie purrs, "Nice ass-cot."

    There it was: another one of those sexy zingers designed to make parents laugh and sail over kids' head. Turns out my parental instincts were right.

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sex -- and its cheeky cousin, innuendo -- doesn't go over kids' head. In fact, the AAP's new report, "Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media," says that exposure to sexual content in TV and other media in early adolescence can as much as double

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  • What Back-to-School Taught Me

    It never fails. Every year when school starts, I find that parents are the ones learning a new lesson. For me, it was the moment my son came home from his first day of middle school with a unique assignment: to log into the school's online communication site. The site would be his main way of checking assignments, reviewing his schedule, and sending email to his teacher.

    My mind started racing: He'll have to get an email address. He'll have to use the computer every day. He'll probably get sucked into more computer time -- and soon, social networks. Suddenly, there were decisions to make, boundaries to create, and rules to abide by. Along with taking the bus and finishing homework, we'll be holding him accountable for safe and responsible use of things like instant messaging, video chatting, and social networking. And I thought buying him his first pair of skinny jeans was a challenge!

    A friend of mine is dealing with other surprising new developments in her third grader. A

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  • Back to School: Real Parents Share What Really Works

    Kids are returning to school this year more saturated in media than ever. From the TV to the computer to the cell phone, you're balancing your kids' media consumption with homework, after school activities, and play dates.

    But if anyone can do it, you can. The advice and comments from our community (that's you!) are a treasure trove of useful, do-able tips that every parent can put into practice. Whether you're wrestling with too much texting or navigating social networks, see how our readers make it all work. And tell us how you do, too.

    See How Parents Make it All Work

    Cell Phone Rules

    Say 'nighty night. "At night before bed or at 8:30, we have them turn their phones off and charge them in a certain place that's near our bedroom. They can get their phone in the morning before school."

    Don't believe the hype. "They want to know when they can get their own cell phones and iPods (even though they weren't totally sure what it was). So we've had discussions on what's

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  • Watch: Michael Cera Dishes on Scott Pilgrim

    The worlds of comic books and video games collide in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which stars teen fave Michael Cera. Watch our interview with Cera and the film's creators as they discuss the messages inside the mayhem. For more on the review of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, visit us at Common Sense Media.

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  • Kid's First Cell Phone: One Mom's Hang Up

    The Great Cell Phone Debate

    I know I'm not the only parent whose kid traveled alone this summer. But when my 11-year-old's plane was delayed and it looked like he might miss his connecting flight, I felt like the only mom in the world who let her kid travel without a cell phone.

    That little incident was a wake-up call. It wasn't that I thought, "OK, we're off to the cell-phone kiosk today!" It just made me realize that I'd been avoiding an issue I'd sooner or later have to confront. And it's not data plans or texting bills. What worries me is access -- to the Internet, to friends I don't know, to the interconnected digital world. Kids think of their phones as personal communications devices, but these devices link them to a world that's getting increasingly more public every day.

    It's nearly impossible to find a cell phone that doesn't have a million bells and whistles. Even basic phones have cameras, texting, and Internet access. And while parental controls are available

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  • Kids Online: How Low Will You Go?

    In a world where Tori Spelling's 3-year-old son has a Twitter account and toddlers are making Lady Gaga videos on YouTube, it's increasingly difficult for parents to refuse their kids access to Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, YouTube, and other social networking sites.

    And yet we're also living in a world in which 1 in 5 U.S. children say they do things online that their parents wouldn't approve of, according to a 2007 Norton Online Living Report. We know that kids are supposed to be 13 to use social networking sites, but even ultra-responsible parents often throw in the towel and let their kids fake their birthdates and create accounts.

    Why? In the words of one mom who let her 11-year-old daughter have a Facebook page, "All her friends were on it."

    Parents are simply outgunned -- by peer pressure, pop culture, and an Internet-centric lifestyle. Having a Facebook page has become a modern rite of passage. In fact, a Pangea Media poll found that most tweens would rather

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  • Out of Control: Lessons in an Online Feeding Frenzy

    By now, you've probably heard the story of Jessi Slaughter, the 11-year-old girl whose online interactions went terribly, terribly awry in a very public way. The girl (Slaughter is a screen name) became the center of an online frenzy that led to a police investigation and an appearance on Good Morning America this week.

    A video of her crying and saying, "you guys have ruined my life" included an angry rant by her father -- and it quickly grew out of control as the mainstream media picked up the story and made it headline news. And once it was, things got even more out of hand, with critics creating "mash-ups" and her family being publicly slammed.

    It's a heartbreaking, nightmare scenario that nobody wanted. And yet it's also a complicated situation in which everyone had a role. While people have focused on who deserves the blame, we think the real take-away for families is to see this as a massive -- and horrid -- teachable moment about the potential consequences of

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  • New in Theaters: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

    Common Sense Media rates this movie on for Ages 9 and up.
    What Parents Need to Know

    This review of The Sorcerer's Apprentice was written by S. Jhoanna Robledo

    Parents need to know that this fantasy action-adventure, inspired to some degree by Disney's classic Fantasia, is targeted at the same audience who enjoyed star Nicolas Cage's National Treasure movies. Like those movies, The Sorcerer's Apprentice has plenty of thrilling action sequences boosted by special-effects magic -- some of which may be too scary and/or intense for kids under 8. There's swordplay and electric blasts, and characters are threatened with peril and even death. But underlying all the action is a positive message about being true to yourself.

    Families Can Talk About Talk to your kids about the media in their life. We have more tools and tips that can help
    • Families can talk about the film's action scenes. Do movies have to have actual violence to be scary or intense?
    • Why is Dave reluctant to go for
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