By: Shannon Ralph
It’s no secret that our children live in a very different world than the one we grew up in. The advent of the internet has drastically broadened our horizons, and advances in technology have placed the whole wide world at our children’s fingertips. These days, media and technology permeate every aspect of our lives—even more so for our children who have never known a single day when the internet did not exist.
Today’s kids spend over 50 hours a week in front of a screen of one kind or another. The messages they receive affect them in ways both insignificant and life-altering. If you are anything like me, you worry about the impact media and technology has on your child—socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically. How is a parent to handle the constant barrage of media content our children consume on a daily basis? How is a parent to navigate this constantly changing media landscape of our modern world?
As parents, we know that it is crucial for our children to learn to use media and technology wisely. It’s not going away, so it is essential that we incorporate it into our children’s lives in a way that is healthy, productive, and educational. So how do we do that?
It’s not easy.
I recently discovered a wonderful tool that helps to guide parents through today’s confusing and rapidly changing media landscape. Common Sense Media is a website dedicated to helping families make smart media choices. They offer the largest library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music available anywhere. They also provide a Parent Concerns page and a Parent Blog to “help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.”
I have to admit that my initial reaction when the website was recommended by a friend was one of skepticism. Was Common Sense Media run by a bunch of religious zealots a la the Family Research Council? Was its goal to tell parents what they should and should not do? Does it assume all children are the same? Do they advocate for censorship?
I was surprised and pleased to discover that none of my initial reservations were true. As a matter of fact, Common Sense Media’s tagline is: We believe in sanity, not censorship. And that is exactly what they provide—sanity in a world where the only constant is change.
I have found that the reviews on Common Sense Media are thoughtful and well-written. Each review contains a star rating and an age recommendation, which is reasonable and makes sense. In addition, each review contains a section entitled “What parents need to know” that rates the movie/video game/book /app on positive message, positive role models, violence, sex, language, consumerism, and drinking/drugs/smoking. Other sections of each review include:
• What’s the story?
• Is it any good?
• Families can talk about…
• Movie/Book/Game/etc. details
I particularly like the section entitled “Families can talk about…” This section encourages parents to engage their children in thought-provoking conversation about media content by providing suggestions for jumping off points to initiate a discussion.
Common Sense Media does not try to tell parents how to parent their child. They don’t assume they know what’s best for your child. They don’t judge. Rather, Common Sense Media advocates for parents and children by providing crucial non-biased information about media and technology based on fundamental child development principles. By arming parents with honest and common sense-based reviews, they help parents to make informed choices that are right for their families.
Information is power, and Common Sense Media is an invaluable tool for empowering families.
Photo Credit: Brad Flickinger