Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Q&A: Which Celebrities Are Good Role Models for Girls?

    Selena Gomez in Spring BreakersSelena Gomez in Spring BreakersAnswered by Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media parenting expert


    Q. I'm a 13-year-old girl who misses Selena Gomez when she wasn't so grown up. Who are some other alternative role models? My list so far is: Zendaya Coleman, Bella Thorne, Bridgit Mendler, and Ariana Grande.

    A. Selena Gomez sure has grown up, hasn't she? The good news is that your new choices (for anyone who might not be familiar with them) are all Disney and Nickelodeon stars whose music and acting work (Shake It Up, Lemonade Mouth, Freak the Freak Out) is mostly wholesome and totally appropriate for preteens and teens. So far, so good!

    But when you're seeking role models, challenge yourself to look beyond appearances. These young entertainers actually work really hard to train their voices and bodies. To get where they are, they've had to be disciplined, smart, and, of course, talented. That's what's admirable.

    Also consider finding role models in your every day life -- they don't have to be celebrities.

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  • Kids' Book Picks for the Last Days of Summer

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy 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 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 -- some exceptional titles that could be the perfect thing to perk your kid's interest, get your reader hooked on a new author, or rediscover an old favorite.

    Here are our picks for August:

    • For kids 3 to 7, there are two great new books on bullying. Author-illustrator Laura Vaccaro Seeger, who won a Caldecott Honor for Green, introduces a mean, insulting bull in Bully. But once he understands how hurtful name-calling can be, he changes his ways. With few words and bold images, the book teaches young kids that even bullies have feelings and can appreciate forgiveness after they apologize. And in the latest installment in
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  • 7 Foreign Films Kids Will Love

    There's lots of fun to be had watching movies in other languages. There's lots of fun to be had watching movies in other languages. By Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media editor

    I showed my son, Kyle, his first foreign film when he was 7: the Academy Award-winning 1957 French classic The Red Balloon. I had seen it when I was his age, and I still recall being fascinated by how different the French kids dressed and how different the Paris streets looked. The fable-like, nearly wordless story was universal, yet so utterly French. Kyle loved it, especially seeing kids at play in another era.

    Fast-forward to his tween years, when I took him to his first foreign film at a movie theater, the dreamlike Chinese martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He thought it was amazing, and it wasn't just the action sequences that wowed him. It was also the period detail, the artful cinematography, the heartbreaking romance -- everything that was nothing like anything he'd ever seen before. And he was able to follow the subtitles without a problem: "I barely noticed them after a while," he said," I was so caught up in the

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  • 13 Classic TV Shows to Stream with Your Kids

    TV you loved as a kid can become your kids' favorites, too. TV you loved as a kid can become your kids' favorites, too. By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    When I was a kid my dad and I would watch Star Trek together, laughing at Capt. Kirk's earnestness and betting on which red shirt would bite the dust. When I was a bit older, Star Trek: The Next Generation began, and Capt. Picard -- the brave but fair leader of the more modern USS Enterprise -- became my hero. Now that my daughter's 9, she's getting a taste of Picard's brilliance thanks to Netflix and my iPad.

    Parents have always shared some of their favorite childhood activities with their kids, but before Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services became so easy to access, watching favorite old TV shows was tricky (or expensive). I've put together a list of great older shows that are easy to find and fun to share with kids. Remember, even though these shows are old to you, they're new to kids! (Streaming availability is subject to change, so if you don't find the show in the listed location, seach around and you might find it elsewhere.)

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  • How to Pick the Right Comics for Your Kid

    Comics and graphic novels can fire a child's imagination beyond words.Comics and graphic novels can fire a child's imagination beyond words.By Michael Berry, guest blogger for Common Sense Media

    Take one look at news coverage from Comic-Con in San Diego this week, and you'll understand why it's such a cliché to say that "comics aren't just for kids any more." Comics-related entertainment is a multibillion-dollar business, enjoyed by audiences of all ages and backgrounds. But, as a parent, how do you foster a love of graphic storytelling without overwhelming your kids with age-inappropriate content? By knowing what to look for -- and being careful about what to avoid.

    When my son, Lowell, was in grade school and enjoying the Captain Underpants books and Calvin & Hobbes collections, I would bring home comics from the office, as part of my job as a freelance book critic. But there were a whole lot I never shared with him, because they were simply too dark, too complicated, or too adult.

    Between trying to explain character backstories that change constantly and confusingly (when I was a kid, Batman had just one Robin --

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  • 25 Cool Things Kids Can Learn Online (for Free!)

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    With summer in full swing, lots of kids (and parents) are going online for ideas to keep busy. At Common Sense Media, we're partial to activities that are a little, well, different. We've rounded up 25 unique things you and your kids can learn online (for free!) by a) watching a video, b) following instructions, or c) reading about a subject.

    Note: Many videos include an advertisement at the beginning, and some websites might link off to other topics or sites that might not be appropriate for your kids. We suggest previewing or watching along with your kids.

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  • 3 Digital Disneyland Tools You Shouldn't Be Without

    Avoid the lines and have way more fun. Avoid the lines and have way more fun. By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    Our first family trip to Disneyland was fraught with trouble. We had to reschedule not once, but twice this spring due to sick kids and/or sick parents. So when we finally made it in early June, I was worried that we'd hit the busy summer crowds and, instead of having lots of fun, we'd be waiting, waiting, waiting in lines.

    After consulting Disneyland veterans and going a little Google-crazy, I found some solutions that put my fears to rest -- and made the whole trip run smoothly. These three digital tools helped my family get on the rides we wanted, reduced wait times to practically zero, and increased our fun factor about a gazillion percent.

    • YouTube
      Since my kids and I were Disneyland newbies, we didn't know much about the rides. In order to figure out which ones to do first, we sat down together and watched several YouTube videos that demonstrated each part of the rides. We liked the previews posted by TheCoasterViews,
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  • 5 Books that Inspired YA Author Sarah Dessen

    YA Author Sarah DessenYA Author Sarah DessenBy Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer

    I first heard of the prolific young adult novelist Sarah Dessen four years ago from my then 11-year-old niece, who informed me that Dessen was one of her favorite authors. Since then, I've heard her name in hundreds of conversations about books, and not just from tween and teen girls, but also from adults who love to read young adult fiction.

    Dessen, a No.1 New York Times best-selling author, has published 12 books, including Just Listen -- all of them realistic coming-of-age tales that capture the myriad issues of adolescence with humor and romance. Common Sense Media's four-star review of Dessen's latest book, The Moon and More, praises it for portraying "authentic teen characters finding their way through messy circumstances."

    The daughter of two professors (her mom taught classics, her father Shakespeare) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (also her alma mater), Dessen knows her literature. Her book

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  • 10 Most Violent Video Games (and 10+ Alternatives)

    Ultra-violent video games get a lot of attention -- but there are plenty of less-violent alternatives.Ultra-violent video games get a lot of attention -- but there are plenty of less-violent alternatives.By Jinny Gudmundsen, Common Sense Media editor

    Among teen and preteen gamers, the names of violent video games travel fast. And before you know anything about these games, your kid wants to play them. It's difficult to stay on top of it -- and it's even harder to know exactly what's in a game in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to buy it.

    Of course, many video games can provide enriching experiences and learning opportunities. But with ultra-violent video games, the negatives clearly outweigh any positives for kids. (Read Media and Violence: An Analysis of Current Research for an assessment of the studies measuring the effects of media violence on kids.) Complicating the issue is that many ultra-violent video games are actually technically superb.

    But here's the thing: Violent video games may get a lot of attention, but there are always less-violent alternatives available. If your kid is asking for a game you've never heard of, consider your

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  • How Can You Prevent the Dreaded "Summer Slide"?

    Reading is the key to keeping kids' skills up over the summer. Reading is the key to keeping kids' skills up over the summer.

    By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media editor

    Summer slide -- when kids forget what they learned from the school year -- is pretty common. But there's one proven method for preventing it: reading. Kids who read a lot over the summer not only maintain reading skills, they go back to school better prepared for all subjects.

    There are many ways to get kids reading. Schedule regular sessions every day, read with them, read to them, and help them choose a wide array of material -- even comic books. Check out our Summer Reading List for Kids for book picks for all ages. And if your kids are reluctant readers, consider these books to coax them.

    Frequent skill-building sessions throughout the summer help, too. Try these math and science programs and reading and writing boosters.

    And remember, it's OK -- in fact, it's beneficial -- for kids to get bored, too. Downtime encourages kids to use their imagination and creativity and develop their inner selves -- essential skills they can use all

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