Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • 5 Things You Need to Know This Week: Father's Day, Google, Facebook Hashtags, Sesame Street, and More

    Get the Friday 5!Get the Friday 5!By Angela Zimmerman, Common Sense Media editor

    We've been celebrating Father's Day all week with a series of guest dad bloggers and round-ups of some of our favorite fellas in movies, books, and TV. We've also been talking about the "summer slide" and summer reading, and discussing news from Silicon Valley to Sesame Street.


    And now for some sweet inspiration

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  • I Use My Smartphone to Be a Better Parent

    How Facetime, Skype, and other technologies help working parents stay connected to home. How Facetime, Skype, and other technologies help working parents stay connected to home. By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    I'm a full-time working mom and one of growing number of female primary breadwinners in the United States. One of the perks of my work is that I occasionally get to travel to different parts of the country for conferences or meetings. But these trips, as well as the days I spend at work when my kids are home for the summer, can be hard on my family.

    But, luckily, I'm a working mom in the age of Facetime, Skype, and other apps that can help me stay in touch with my kids.

    When I was a kid, my mom would call me after school to make sure I got home OK and wasn't watching too many soap operas while I waited for her to get off work. But as most parents know, a phone call can be tricky with kids -- especially younger ones who haven't mastered the art of conversation.

    Video-chatting with my kids while I'm on a layover in Detriot helps keep us in touch, even if my kids don't have a lot to say. Often the conversations will go

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  • 14 Kids' Apps and Games to Make Summer Days Fun

    What's your kid's favorite way to be creative? By Common Sense Media editors

    You've got a creative kid, and summer break gives your kid more time to stretch those creative muscles in fun ways. And creativity is more than arts and music -- making, tinkering, and experimenting are all ways kids can be creative. Whether they want to write code for a video game or make an origami crane, kids can explore their creative side with these 14 apps, games, and websites we love. And check out our Digital Fun for Creative Kids guide for 100+ more ideas to keep kids occupied all summer long. Let the making begin!


    **CRAFTING AND CREATING ART**

    Faces iMake - Right Brain Creativity
    For ages 2-6
    This stellar app encourages kids to create art from common objects, and video lessons teach about artistic inspiration and symbolism. The overall design is kid-friendly and fun, and kids can share their creations via email and social media and with other app users worldwide.


    Art Academy
    For ages 7-12
    More like a virtual art

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  • My Daughter Wants to Download Raunchy Music

    Does your kid want to download inappropriate tunes?Does your kid want to download inappropriate tunes?By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    I've come to terms with hearing my kids mimic certain iffy words they hear on the radio, but when my 8-year-old daughter asked me to download a few songs off iTunes for the first time, I was not prepared to deal with a song about oral sex. Yikes!

    Here's how it started: Since this would be my daughter's first download, I wanted to be upbeat about the experience. Our family loves music, and I don't want to censor such an essential art form. I also knew I needed to quickly establish rules about how this music downloading process would work, so she and I would be on the same page.

    So I told her she could choose three songs to download and that I needed to approve them first. The first was by Taylor Swift, whom I admire because she writes her own music and her songs are fairly innocent. The second was by Rihanna, who has a racy popular image, yet my daughter has zero knowledge of it.

    But it was her final choice --"Whistle," by Flo

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  • Why I Enrolled My Kid in Computer Camp

    Summer camp isn't only about outdoor activities. Summer camp isn't only about outdoor activities. By Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media contributor

    Whenever I try making summer plans with my 9-year-old daughter, she balks at the idea of camps, telling me she just wants to "laze around." But because both my husband and I work at home during the summer, I need to find something to fill at least a few hours each day. And I finally found a camp that I know she'd love.

    Unfortunately -- for nature-loving me -- it's a week-long Minecraft Camp.

    Are your kids also obsessed with this ultra-popular, sandbox-style video game? Minecraft involves building structures with blocks ... and blowing them up with TNT. Personally, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about, but she and her friends -- and my husband, truthfully -- can spend hours playing if I let them. And then more hours talking about the cool stuff they built and/or blew up.

    To me, sitting around playing computer games in a business park doesn't sound like a summer camp -- especially because we live in Santa Cruz

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  • How Social Networks Can Both Help and Hurt Your Momhood

    Mom-ing It OnlineMom-ing It OnlineBy Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    I admit, I've spent way too long on certain friends' Facebook pages, scrolling through their photos of birthday parties, matching holiday outfits, and luscious four-course meals, immersing myself in their apparently perfect lives.

    This modern age of social networks gives us unprecedented access to other mothers' lives. It's so easy to get caught up in their poignant photos and celebratory posts about kids' accomplishments and start believing that this carefully curated online identity is actually the sum of your mom friends' lives.

    Inevitably, this leads to self-judgment. Nothing like looking up from a slideshow of a friend's newly designed kitchen to see your own: dirty, disorganized ... depressing.

    But what most of us know deep down is that this online life -- the one carefully crafted on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. -- is only the highlight reel. The behind-the-scenes life is much grittier, filled with more tantrums

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  • How Can You Stop Your Kids from Multitasking?

    Too much multitasking? Too much multitasking? By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media editor

    Q. My kids insist that they need their devices while they're doing their homework. But I see them watching YouTube and checking texts. How do I get them to stop multitasking?

    A. You're right to be concerned. Recent studies show that multitasking is detrimental to learning and that distractions weaken brain power. Even teachers are reporting that media has hurt their students' academic performance.

    At the same time, school assignments often include a screen component -- researching a topic, doing problems on a math site, viewing and commenting on a YouTube video, or just writing a paper. But once kids are online, it's tough to stop.

    Lots of parents struggle with how to manage multitasking. Ultimately, you want to help your kids develop their own self-restraint and concentration abilities. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some ideas to try:


    • Try to help your kids understand the value of training
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  • 25 Must-See Summer Movies

    Must-See Summer MoviesMust-See Summer MoviesBy Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer

    Summer and movies go together like ice cream and sprinkles. But it can be hard to decide which of the big-budget sequels, superhero adventures, and eye-popping animated flicks you and your kids are most likely to love (and want to spend money on!). From the sure-to-be-blockbuster Iron Man 3 to a look at Mike and Sulley's college days in Monsters University, here's a cheat sheet to help you decide which high-profile summer movies are appropriate for your family.

    MAY MOVIES

    • Iron Man 3 (May 5)
      Target Age: Older Tweens and Teens
      Buzz Factor: As usual, the summer movie season kicks off with a big-budget action flick; this time it's the much-anticipated third film in the Iron Man franchise. Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is back to face his toughest foe to date -- one who has the power to destroy the one thing Tony loves more than himself: his beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Expect the usual mix of
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  • 6 Ways to Teach Kids Media Smarts During Breaking News

    Teach kids to be discerning during breaking news.Teach kids to be discerning during breaking news.By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    When big news breaks, it's easy to get caught up in following the news online. But while the Internet -- from major news sites to Twitter -- can be a valuable place to find useful information, it can also be the source of misinformation. Helping kids and teens understand the news and how to separate fact from fiction is an important job for parents and educators.

    Here's some advice parents can offer kids and teens who consume the news:

    1. Remember, breaking news is often wrong. In the rush to cover stories, reporters make mistakes, officials don't always have correct information, and tidbits that sound plausible often get passed around before anyone can check for accuracy. One Texas TV station reported through closed captioning that Zooey Deschanel was one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers!

    2. Use social media wisely. Some say Twitter is a great source of news in the first few minutes of a tragedy, but after that it

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  • 7 Apps to Help Your Kid Be More Responsible

    Time-Management Apps for KidsTime-Management Apps for KidsBy Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media editor

    Gnashing my teeth the other day after yet another frustrating morning of badgering/begging my 3-year-old to get dressed/go potty/put on her shoes so we could get out the door even close to on time, I found myself thinking that there had to be a better way. What I needed was something that she found more compelling than making faces at herself in the mirror -- or the hundred other ways she finds to dawdle every day.

    Enter the iPhone. My daughter loves any excuse to use my phone or tablet, and I'd heard about morning routine apps, so I started poking around. I found a few likely looking options in the App Store, but before I laid out any cash, I wanted to see whether the idea would actually work. So I used an app I already had called AnyList, which my husband and I use to share our weekly grocery shopping roster. I set up a new list just for her that includes all of her morning to-dos, like "Eat breakfast," "Wash hands and face,"

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