Blog Posts by Common Sense Media

  • Virtual Allowance for In-App Purchases? Yes or No?

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

    My 6-year-old son is completely obsessed with a virtual world app called Tiny Monsters. All his friends are, too. And while his friends' parents feed their kids' iTunes accounts, enabling these tiny monsters to quickly grow into bigger ones, my son is stuck waiting and waiting for them to grow without the added boost of an in-app purchase.

    When I brought up the idea of allowing our son to spend his $1 per week allowance on his favorite game, my husband was flatly against it. His reason -- that this virtual spending would nix any potential learning about money management -- seemed valid at first. If our son doesn't hold the dollar in his hand and pass it over to a cashier or slip coins into a slot, how will he understand that the money is no longer his?

    But were we being old-fashioned? Isn't our society moving toward digital payments for everything? When was the last time we used actual cash for anything? And doesn't our son need

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  • Nerding Out in Nature: One Smart Phone. Two Kids. Tons of Fun

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

    My son would glue his eyeballs to my iPhone if I let him. He wants every second he can squeeze out of that shiny device, and we're constantly wrestling with the when and how of device time. So when I found a way for us to blend outdoor time and exercise with the allure of the iPhone, I knew I'd struck gold.

    Geocaching is something that tech-savvy (and GPS-owning) families have been doing for ages, but now that many families own at least one smartphone, this digitally driven treasure hunt is something almost anyone can enjoy.

    Here's the deal: An international community of treasure hunters (known as geocachers) have hidden little caches of fun stuff all over the world. You can use your smartphone to hunt down the treasures -- usually little goodies like plastic toy animals, a play token, or maybe a dime. How cool is that?

    Recently, I took three kids to a nearby park and spent hours searching trails, tree stumps, boulders,

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  • 5 Tips for Families Who Love Watching Sports

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media Editor

    Watching sports with your kids is one of life's great pleasures. If you're usually careful about how much TV they watch, then the big game can be an exciting occasion -- and something to savor instead of stressing over. But as we all know, there are plenty of interferences to enjoying sports as a family: age-inappropriate commercials, unsportsmanlike conduct on the field, and waaay overdoing the tube time.

    Keep these tips in mind to enrich your family's sports watching.

    1. Just say no to "enhancements." In other words, mute the commercials. Your kids don't need to see ads for Viagra, liquor, or other adult products advertised during sports events. Use the break to talk to your kids about the game instead.

    2. Share your love of the game. Involve your kids in your enjoyment of the game. Many a fond memory has formed from the experience of watching the game and hanging out with dear old Dad (or Mom!).

    3. Be a good

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  • How to Raise a Reader

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media editor

    Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes there's one key book that captures a kid's imagination and opens him or her up to the exciting world of fiction. Other times, a teacher who assigns great books in class sparks a hunger for more big ideas and fine writing. In some cases, parents influence kids' appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modeling reader behavior -- always having a book to read, taking books on vacation, reading before bedtime, making regular trips to the library and bookstore, etc.

    Here are our best tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime:

    Read aloud: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it's important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. For babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it's wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep

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  • Seven Media-Savvy Skills All Parents Need in 2013

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media editor

    Instagram. Snapchat. Facebook. Everyday there's some new thing we parents need to figure out. Getting up to speed -- plus giving our kids guidance and limits -- is a daily challenge.

    You don't have to become an expert to help your kids make good decisions. Just get involved in their media lives. By engaging with them, you can help them use these tools responsibly, respectfully, and safely. Here are some ways to be a media-savvy parent this year:

    1. Check out your kids' social sites. From videogames to apps -- even music -- nearly everything has a social component these days. Your kids may enjoy posting status updates, uploading photos, IMing, commenting, gaming or any number of online sharing activities with friends. Ask them to show you where they visit, what they do there, who they talk to, what they upload. Make sure they know the rules for safe, responsible, respectful online communication.

    2. Take their games

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  • What Catfights? 9 TV Shows that Are Good for Girls

    Ruby GloomRuby GloomBy Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

    Best friends really are the best. For girls and young women, they're the ones who psych you up for fun, admire your talents, help you through tough days, and let you ramble on about your crazy theories.

    But if you watch much TV -- from The Real Housewives to American Idol -- you might think girl friendships were something entirely different. Throwing drinks in your friend's face, calling her a tramp, or yanking her hair might seem like normal parts of being buds. Even scripted favorites like Nashville and Pretty Little Liars regularly pit women against each other.

    But there are plenty of shows that don't wallow in the negative. By choosing entertainment that sends a better message to your kids, you can proactively counteract negative female stereotypes. Here are our favorite weapons against girl-on-girl hate.

    My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, 4+ (The Hub): It's super cutesy, but this animated preschool favorite shows

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  • 8 Resolutions for Managing Kids' Media in 2013

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media editor

    Like most people, my New Year's resolutions include eating better and exercising more. But there's something else I want to get better at: managing my kid's media and technology. Over the past year, I've learned that the best way to stay involved in my kid's life is to keep an open mind about his online activities. My 2013 New Year's Resolutions focus on staying involved, listening, and having conversations.

    1. Listen without judgment. To remain in the loop about what my son is doing, what games and videos he likes, and even who he's playing against in multiplayer games, sometimes I just need to hear him. I will try to listen without issuing snap judgments about what he's doing wrong.

    2. Keep discovering and sharing. Believe it or not, I'm the one who introduced my son to the Gangnam Style video that was one of the biggest cultural phenomenons of 2012. I am often the one who alerts him to the latest Internet craze -- staying

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  • 8 Ways to Unplug Your Holidays

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media editor

    What's topping your kids' holiday wish lists this year? Chances are it has a screen, Internet access, and games. And if they're lucky enough to unwrap a Nintendo Wii U or an iPad Mini, then it's up to you to figure out how to balance the fun with family time. (See our editors' picks for Wii U games and iPad apps.)

    As much as we all love and depend on our high-tech toys, our reliance on them -- let's face it -- can get in the way of the warm and cozy family time we so carefully scheduled (probably on our electronic calendar!).

    An outright ban on digital devices won't win your kids' respect -- or compliance. But with a little planning and intentional involvement, you can balance your family's tech activities with much-needed face time. Here's how:

    1. Be jolly -- but firm. Explain to your kids that you want to downsize -- not demolish -- your family's reliance on technology over the holidays. Let them know that you'll be

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  • Talking to Kids About the Connecticut School Shooting

    By the editors of Common Sense Media

    We're all reeling over news of the devastating elementary school shooting. In the wake of this tragedy, here are a few ways to provide comfort to your kids and help them feel safe.

    Help put the news in perspective

    Shootings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, end-of-the-world predictions -- even local news reports of missing kids and area shootings -- all of this can be upsetting news even for adults, much less kids. In our 24/7 news world, it's become nearly impossible to shield kids from distressing current events.

    Today, kids get news from everywhere. This constant stream of information shows up in sharable videos, posts, blogs, feeds, and alerts. And since much of this content comes from sites that are designed for adult audiences, what your kids see, hear, or read might not always be age appropriate. Making things even more challenging is the fact that many kids are getting this information directly on their phones and laptops.

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  • 6 Ways to Save Money This Holiday

    Common Sense MediaCommon Sense MediaBy Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media editor

    The holiday season is upon us -- and so is a pretty painful economy. Whether it's family entertainment, gifts for the kids, or gifts for relatives and friends, the costs of video games, DVDs, and presents can quickly add up. But if you know where to look, you can find some pretty sweet deals. Check out these ideas:

    Have nieces and nephews? Offer a sleepover movie night at your house. Movies are a fun holiday tradition, but a night out can really add up -- especially if you want to take the whole gang. With so many options for watching movies online, whether downloading or streaming, you can still enjoy first-run flicks (or seasons of your favorite TV series) for less than the cost of a night out at the theater.

    Companies including Netflix, Blockbuster, YouTube, VUDU, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Hulu all offer videos to enjoy without leaving home. Some of these services offer a flat rental fee from a couple of dollars or

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