Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • 5 Teen Lit Books Parents Should Read

    Parents will love these YA books. Parents will love these YA books. By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer

    I used to think that YA books were a waste of time. I mean, I didn't even read them when I was an actual teen. (OK, I did read a friend's much-dog-eared copy of Judy Blume's Forever, but that was in sixth grade, and what Gen Xer didn't read that?) There wasn't enough time in my schedule to read all of the critically acclaimed "grown-up" books I wanted to read, much less those aimed at a totally different demographic.

    But a few years ago, I finally took the advice of my Common Sense pals Betsy Bozdech and Carrie Wheadon and started reading the Harry Potter books with my oldest son, who was 7 at the time. I was hooked -- I read all seven books in one week -- even though my son didn't finish reading them until he was 9. A year later, Betsy recommended I read The Hunger Games, and again, I devoured read the entire series. Voila, I was officially a YA lover. I even started a blog with my sister, an elementary school teacher,

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  • TV Shows that Bridge the Sibling Age Gap

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

    My brother and sister are more than a decade younger than me, so they were often running around the living room while I was catching up on Days of Our Lives. Luckily they didn't pay much attention to the travails of Bo and Hope. But most siblings are closer in age, and if one kid is watching TV, the other is sure to join in.

    So how do you find shows that mixed-aged kids will enjoy watching, but are still age appropriate for the younger ones? It's a challenge for sure, and families often find themselves pushing the younger sibling into uncomfortable territory -- or subjecting older kids to boring stuff.

    There's really no perfect way to do this, but, like a lot of parenting advice, the best stuff often comes from asking around and learning what other parents do.

    I turned to our online community, and asked folks on Twitter and Facebook for their faves for bridging the age gap. As usual, Common Sense users had great

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  • 5 Fun Takeaways from the Croods

    What can your family learn from The Croods?What can your family learn from The Croods?

    By S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media reviewer

    The Croods is in theaters all across America (check out our review!). What kind of takeaways can you expect from this visually dazzling new adventure?

    • Not all cartoon cavemen are like Fred and Barney. Unlike another Stone Age family (the yabba-dabba-doo-ing, socializing-with-the-neighbors, and rock-quarry-working Flintstones), the Croods don't get out much, at least at first. Grug, the caveman clan's patriarch (voiced by Nicolas Cage), thinks there's no reason to leave the safe confines of their cave -- except for some serious food-hunting, that is. But he soon learns that life is that much more fun, even if it's a little (OK, a lot) unpredictable, when you step outside your comfort zone.
    • Anything boys can do, girls can do, too -- sometimes better! Adventurous heroine Eep (Emma Stone) jumps, runs, scales mountains, and more just as enthusiastically as her dad and Guy (Ryan Reynolds) -- and, in the case of
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  • 5 Things You Need to Know This Week: The Croods News, March Madness Tips, and a Dad's Wisdom

    5 Things You Need to Know This Week5 Things You Need to Know This Week"5 Things You Need to Know This Week" is a reoccurring Friday feature at Common Sense Media

    This week, we welcomed the first day of spring, got schooled by a fun (but still in control!) dad, laughed out loud at DreamWorks' gorgeous new animated feature, rediscovered a generation-spanning children's book, and more.

    About Common Sense

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  • How to Be a Fun Dad but Still Be in Control

    Sometimes media actually brings this dad and his kids closer together. Sometimes media actually brings this dad and his kids closer together. By Baldwin Cheng, Common Sense Media blogger

    As a dad, I constantly feel torn between needing to be a strict "Tiger Dad" vs. wanting to be a "fun dad." On the one hand, I have a responsibility to protect my kids and teach them the right life skills. On the other hand, I want to have close bonds with them, to share in their lives, and not to be the bad guy all the time.

    When my two older kids were still in elementary school, our nightly family ritual always included a negotiation over "just one TV show, pleeeeease," which inevitably turned into two or even three, followed by a lot of whining, crying, and empty threats (from both kids and parents). We had to Just. Say. No.

    So we laid down some strict limits: No TV or video games on school nights, and a cap on screen time on weekends. Now, if they really, really want to watch a show, I'll record it to watch on the weekend.

    We put similar limits on their tech: game systems, cell phones, the Internet, and Facebook. They

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  • 5 Things You Need to Know This Week: Disney Starlets, Veronica Mars Movie, Netflix Shares, and More

    5 Things You Need to Know This Week5 Things You Need to Know This Week"5 Things You Need to Know This Week" is a reoccurring Friday feature at Common Sense Media

    In addition to spring movie season heating up, we're also celebrating a Kickstarter success story, remembering our favorite music teachers, and sharing our Netflix picks on Facebook -- or are we? Here are some of the hot topics around our office this week.

    • The drug- and sex-fueled movie Spring Breakers, starring Disney queens Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, is ruffling parents' feathers -- especially those whose kids have seen them as role models.
    • Fans of canceled TV series Veronica Mars kicked in $2 million in one day to fund the production of a movie based on the show.
    • Grammys aren't just for pop stars. Our digital media director/resident cellist invites you to nominate the music teachers who've most inspired you.
    • Ready to expose your guilty pleasures? Netflix goes social with a new Facebook app.
    • Riding high on its Best Picture Oscar win, Argo faces a potential
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  • Texting While Parenting: Can it Wait?

    Smartphone rules are for parents, too.Smartphone rules are for parents, too.By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    Distracted parenting is a hot topic lately. Some experts are linking the rise in smartphone ownership with a spike in emergency room visits for kids under 5. As a parent of two kids and an avid iPhone user, I can attest to plenty of distracted parenting moments -- not something I'm terribly proud of.

    Despite this, I think smartphones are great and can really enhance parenting to some degree. I've certainly appreciated being able to use the map app to figure out how to get to swim lessons. And texting to coordinate afterschool plans is so convenient. Plus there are so many great apps for both parents and kids -- useful for skill building or entertainment when you're in a particularly slow line at the grocery store.

    But if we parents are going to use smartphones, we do need to make a few rules for ourselves. One thing research has shown is that smartphone users' interpretation of how long they're staring at their phones

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  • How Comics Helped My Kid Love Reading

    By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    When I was a kid my dad read to me every night. By age 5, I was traveling nightly through the worlds of The Hobbit or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Even afternoon naps would start with a bit of poetry.

    When I had my kids, I knew that I wanted to raise them to be readers. I took to heart the lessons my father taught me -- that reading quickly or knowing how to pronounce long words aren't the important things, but loving the sound of language, identifying with the characters, and enjoying the journey into other worlds are what make reading fun.

    By the time my youngest was learning to read, I was discovering graphic novels for myself, like Hope Larson's A Wrinkle in Time and Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series. I noticed how attracted my son was to the images in my books. He would curl up with me and stare at the gorgeous illustrations and ask me about the characters and the stories. So we visited the comic book store and the library

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  • 5 Things You Need to Know This Week: Apple Settles, Spring Movie Guide, Google Glasses, and More

    5 Things You Need to Know This Week5 Things You Need to Know This Week

    "5 Things You Need to Know This Week" is a reoccurring Friday feature at Common Sense Media

    Now that the Oscars are over and the first day of March is here, we're looking ahead at the 11 new movies in our spring movie preview. We're also commenting on the Apple in-app settlement, ogling Google Glasses, and spreading the word about our new Apps for Kids with Special Needs guide.


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  • 11 New Movies for Kids and Teens

    Jack the Giant SlayerJack the Giant SlayerBy Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media reviewer

    Who says summer is the only time for movie blockbusters? Box-office-wise, March and April look nearly as exciting as May through August. While there's only one major animated flick aimed at younger moviegoers (The Croods), tweens and teens can look forward to everything from reimagined fairy tales (Jack the Giant Slayer) and highly anticipated book adaptations (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Host) to the dino-mite 3-D re-release of Jurassic Park.

    No matter how old your kids are, our sneak peeks will help you decide whether these high-profile movies will be appropriate for your family.

    Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1)
    Target Age: Tweens and Teens
    Buzz Factor: Disney has reimagined the Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer fairy tales with a swashbuckling young hero (Nicholas Hoult) who volunteers for a dangerous mission to save a beautiful princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) from the land of giants. With tons of

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