Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Watching the Super Bowl 2010 Ads: What's Age-Appropriate?

    Families watch together

    Ever since Janet Jackson's 2005 "wardrobe malfunction," when Justin Timberlake ripped her shirt and exposed her nipple, the Super Bowl has come in for special scrutiny. Why? Because the Super Bowl actually represents a moment when families sit down and watch TV together. Which means we're pretty much a captive audience and can be surprised by just about anything that happens during the live game -- including the ads.

    Ads impact children

    America pays almost as much attention to Super Bowl ads as we do the fumble on the third yard line. It's become a national sport to rate the ads the next day -- in the office and in the schoolyard. As adults, we may be evaluating an ad's humor or creativity, but the impact on kids can be quite different. Remember the Budweiser frogs? So do kids. A study by the Center on Alcohol Advertising showed that 9- to 11-year-old kids had higher recall (73%) of the Budweiser frogs' slogan than the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

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  • 5 Resolutions that Will Keep Your Family Media-Fit

    It's a new year, and once again I find myself making resolutions. There's my annual resolve to get more exercise and eat healthier food. But this year, I decided to do something that actually might result in lasting change. I decided to put my family on a media diet -- not a physical one. I'm not talking about a starvation regime -- I don't think that's realistic or smart. What I had in mind was more of a change in how my family behaves around media and technology. Since I'm dedicated to media sanity, not media censorship, that means really thinking about what my kids need to know in order to use technology responsibly and what my husband and I need to do to support smart behavior and good media consumption choices now that our teens are on the verge of total media freedom.

    I came up with five things I actually think have a decent shot at succeeding. And if we do them, we will absolutely see positive changes in our lives.

    1. I will know before they go. To me that means that I'll

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  • The Digital Decade: 20 Things That Forever Changed Childhood

    Consider this: At the turn of the millennium, what technology issue worried us? Y2K. Our kids listened to CDs on portable players. Laptops and lap dogs weighed about the same. If you wanted to watch a TV show after it aired, you had to program a VCR. AOL ruled email, which most of us accessed through dial-up. Kids surfed the ocean, not the Web; they played games on Game Boys and used their phones to talk, not text; and social networking happened at the mall.

    The first decade of the 21st century has been packed with innovations and entertainment that have forever changed childhood -- and parenting. Some of these have been fabulous. Others? Not so great. But all have revolutionized how our kids communicate, create, learn, and play.

    Here, in no particular order, are the best and worst of the last decade -- the stuff that we at Common Sense Media feel has truly rocked our kids' world.

    The 10 Game Changers

    Google. Okay, technically, Google started in the '90s. But mass use didn't begin

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  • 6 Ways to Be a Media Savvy Parent in 2010

    Ever feel like you're the victim of the digital divide? You know, that one where your kids know more about what's going on than you do? Here are 6 sure-fire ways to bridge the gap.

    1. Visit an online social networking site. If you have young kids, check out Club Penguin (or the soon-to-be-released Kung Fu Panda game). See what the fuss is all about. Embrace your kids' enthusiasm, but educate yourself about what goes on. Get a Facebook or MySpace page. Ask your kids to show you their pages.

    2. Play a video game with your kid. Not one of the really gross ones -- try one of the Guitar Hero games or Beatles Rock Band. Or play a sports game on the Wii, or pass a football with Madden. The best way to keep kids away from violent games is to help them enjoy time with you without having to maim a living soul.

    3. Download something your kids will like. Pick a song they've never heard. Then ask them to play something for you that you've never heard. Put in your two cents afterward.

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  • 10 "Cool" Video Games that are NOT cool for kids (and 10 alternatives)

    End the Battle Over Holiday Wish Lists

    Kids often give their parents major grief for crossing "cool" games off of holiday wish lists. In kid logic, games are "cool" when they have awesome graphics and gameplay, envelope-pushing storylines, and all manners of weaponry. And they aren't wrong. The games they want typically are well constructed, thoughtful, and exciting. But they're often inappropriate for the teens who hunger for them.

    A lot of this season's most talked-about games include ones with excessive violence, negative role models, extreme gore, sociopathic behavior, and other things that have been proven to have a negative effect on kids.

    So how do you give kids what they want without giving them what you don't want? At Common Sense, we solve these problems all the time. Simply follow our tips on a choosing great video games, check out our 2009 video game gift guide, and find some great alternatives that don't veer into unhealthy territory.

    The Editors at

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  • Make Wonderful Lifelong Memories

    Kids love rituals -- it's how they anchor memories. So here's an easy (and cheap) way to start a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition. And all it involves is a sofa, a DVD, and two random hours.

    First, pick a night over the weekend where everyone's home (we love Friday night after thanksgiving where we eat leftovers).

    Then, pick a movie. Since parents and kids often disagree about what movies are okay for kids to see, this is a great opportunity to go to Common Sense Media and find an age-appropriate movie that everyone can agree on. There are thousands to choose from. Sort by age or interest. Have everyone pick something and vote -- or give everyone a turn. (Hint: if you have little kids, pre-select three or four movies so you don't run the risk of having to sit through Care Bears IV. This way they get to choose but you won't lose brain cells in the process.)

    Do something wacky.
    Have everyone dress up in costume, wear crazy pajamas, serve dinner backwards on with dessert first. Set up a

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  • Fight High-Tech Cheating (Before It Starts)

    A friend of mine was recently helping her daughter with her homework when they got to some challenging word problems that neither of them could solve. My friend's Facebook page was open, so she posted the questions to her friends -- and immediately received the answers. Problem solved? Hardly. When the results came through, it occurred to my friend: Am I cheating?

    The ease and immediacy of digital devices -- cell phones, smart phones, Internet access, and social networks -- allow us to get answers quickly and efficiently without having to do a lot of work. And if it's a gray area for parents, it's really shady for kids.

    A recent Common Sense Media poll revealed that lots of kids are doing exactly what my friend did. Plus, they're texting each other answers during tests, using notes and information stored on their cell phones during tests, and downloading papers from the Internet to turn in as their own work. And, while my friend felt conflicted, many students don't consider

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  • The 10 Most Violent Video Games (And 10 Alternatives)

    Arm Yourself With Information

    The names of violent video games tend to travel fast among preteen and teen gamers. And the next thing you know, your kid wants to play them.

    Our list of the 10 most violent video games is designed to arm you with enough information to help you make informed choices about what to allow your kids to play. And beyond that, we offer less-violent alternatives with the compelling gameplay that kids want. No parent wants to say "no" all the time.

    Why care about violent video games ? Prolonged exposure to violent media leads to aggressive behavior, anxiety, bullying, and desensitization. This cause-and-effect relationship is now part of the American Academy of Pediatrics' official policy to help doctors and parents create a "safer" media environment for kids.

    At Common Sense Media, we're all about sanity, not censorship. So here's our list of the 10 most violent video games -- and 10 you can say yes to.

    10 Most Violent Video Games

    1. Manhunt

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  • Doctors Take on Media Violence

    Parents trying to limit their kids' exposure to violent media now have a little more support -- from your kids' pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics , "Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents."

    That means that dealing with the physical and mental health problems associated by overexposure to violent media is now part of the organization's official policy . Pediatricians might now ask kids about their media lives -- like how much TV they watch, whether they have a TV in their room, what kind of video games they play, and how much time they spend consuming media. If the replies suggest too much, your pediatrician might now counsel you and your kid on creating a "safer" media environment.

    Beyond that, the AAP indicates that it will promote more responsible portrayal of violence to media producers and more useful and effective media

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  • 10 Beasts That Changed the World

    How Movie Monsters Help Kids

    Beasts are bad guys, right? Not always. Movie monsters get a bad rap, but they often have positive qualities that help kids learn good things. With monsters, kids can focus on the character's inner beauty and learn how emotional qualities can trump physical appearance -- making them into lovable giants. Also, movie monsters are imperfect, which makes them relatable to kids.

    Make use of movie monsters to help guide kids towards positive behavior -- like being a good friend, making good choices, reporting bullies, and working together.

    But even nice monsters can sometimes be scary to little kids, so use our movie reviews when deciding what to watch.

    The Best Beasts in the Biz

    Monsters, Inc., Age 5
    By exposing Monsters, Inc.'s cynical tactics, Sully upends the Monstropolis power grid from an unsustainable model of fear mongering to an infinitely renewable resource: laughs.

    Beauty and the Beast, Age 5

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