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04 Feb, Saturday
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Montreal Families

A common sense website every parent should bookmark

We have a ritual in our house. My son will ask me if he can buy a game or download a new app. The first question I ask him is: “Have you checked Common Sense Media?”

His inevitable reply is: “No, but, I know it’s appropriate! There is no blood and so-and-so’s mom even lets him play it,” usually referring to a mom who is stricter than I am.

Common Sense Media is an American non-profit organization dedicated to helping families and educators make good decisions about technology. It offers the world’s largest age-based ratings and reviews of all types of content targeted to kids, including games, apps, movies, TV shows, books, music and websites. There are also interesting articles like “185 all-time favourite films for kids & teens.”

Founded by American Jim Steyer in 2003 and funded by individuals, corporations and various foundations (including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Common Sense Media has become my go-to technology bible.

My 10-year-old son isn’t as keen. He has an Xbox One console and recently asked me if he could get Halo. I didn’t know anything about this violent series of sci-fi games but Common Sense Media reviewers say it’s not for kids, period.

For movies, reviewers write a synopsis of the film, and rate on a scale of 1 to 5 if it features positive messages and role models, coarse language, or sexual content. They also suggest topics or issues families can discuss based on a film’s theme. For example, after watching the Paddington movie, families can talk about how this cuddly bear sets off on his own after the earthquake. Can your kids think of any similar real-life situations in which children have been forced to flee because of dangers at home? Is that something that scares them? And this gives parents a chance to reassure kids who might be worried about something like this happening to them.

Apart from ratings, common sensemedia.org also offers timely, socially conscious articles. For example, February is Black History Month so reviewers offer suggestions for award-winning African American books.

There is strong advocacy for healthy body image in young people; parents can read articles, such as “13 books to help kids feel good about themselves and their bodies”, “13 celebrities who won’t wreck your kid or teen’s body image”, and “How girls are seeking (and subverting) approval online”.

A Parent Concerns section and Parent Blog help caregivers navigate the problems associated with raising children in the digital age. And a great way to stay in the loop is to sign up for the free e-newsletter, which offers the latest technology news, top picks for kids and helpful tips.

It’s an easy-to-navigate and visually appealing website; similar to how I find the print publication of Real Simple magazine. If you haven’t yet checked out this website, I highly recommend you do. And go back, often.  Bookmark it. Save it as a favourite. Sign up for the newsletter. Download the free app.

You won’t be sorry.

Common Sense Media’s top 10 Beliefs

  • We believe in media sanity, not censorship.
  • We believe that media has truly become “the other parent” in our kids’ lives, powerfully affecting their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development.
  • We believe in teaching our kids to be savvy, respectful and responsible media users. We can’t cover their eyes but we can teach them to see.
  • We believe parents should have a choice and a voice about the media our kids consume and create. Every family is different but we all need to make informed choices.
  • We believe that the price for free and open media is a bit of work for families. Parents need to know about the media their kids use and need to teach responsible behavior as well as manage overall media use.
  • We believe that through informed decision making, we can improve the media landscape one decision at a time.
  • We believe appropriate regulations about right time, right place, and right manner exist. They need to be upheld by our elected and appointed leaders.
  • We believe in age-appropriate media and that the media industry needs to act responsibly as it creates and markets content for each audience.
  • We believe ratings systems should be independent and transparent for all media.
  • We believe in diversity of programming and media ownership.

— taken from commonsensemedia.org

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