Our Favorite Site To See What Your Kids Are Watching
by Holly Myer and Stephanie Wise
Our modern world bombards us with media. Everywhere we look, TV shows, movies, books, websites, video games, and apps are begging to be consumed; so how do we decide which pieces of the media frenzy our families should (or shouldn’t!) consume? Especially when we may not have time to watch/read/play all of it for ourselves?
As producers of children’s media, we think about this a lot. And for us, the best place for parents, educators, and advocates looking for help sorting through this infinite library is Common Sense Media. Common Sense, an independent non-profit organization, provides information on all types of entertaining and educational media for audiences ages 2-18 years old, as well as articles for parents on media literacy, how to explain the news to kids, and overall responsible digital citizenship.
With school starting back up, kids might be talking to peers about their favorite TV shows, or maybe you have heard of a popular new show from other parents. Common Sense Media is a wonderful place to quickly see the pros and cons of a new title, as well as how it rates with other parents and kids. The group even grants a seal of approval on shows that showcase outstanding (and age-appropriate) content (and we’re proud to say that several Henson programs have received that seal, in both gold and silver).
The site (and app) takes a comprehensive look at content available for children and provides easy-to-digest guides for using TV, games, and books as way to foster communication between parents and children. The Common Sense ratings system goes beyond the familiar scale marked on DVD packaging and movie trailers (TV-Y, G, PG, etc.). Leading experts in children’s development –physical, cognitive, emotional, social development— helped create a metric that grades programming on the type of content included, so you know what topics are represented. A five-point system (0 = not included, up to 5 = major representation) lets readers know if that media content is a source for positive messages and role models, as well as cluing you in if it pictures violence, sex, harsh language, consumerism, or drug/alcohol use. Some programs, mainly for the preschool crowd, are also rated on their level of educational curriculum. Categorizing these items allows parents and educators to know ahead of time what their kids will get a glimpse of on a new show.
On the flipside, if your family could benefit from a break from screen time (even for just a few hours to start), Common Sense supports that effort, too. The site has tips and tools to help you and your family form good content consumption habits, like this Family Media Agreement, which helps both kids and adults stay safe and healthy.
Having a resource with clear, helpful information and articles — like Common Sense — can encourage our tech-savvy kids to have healthy media habits and be great digital citizens. And of course, no matter what shows you watch, which games you enjoy, or apps you have on your phone, you know your kids best so use your own “common sense” to determine what works best for you and your family.
Interested raising a good Digital Citizen? Check out our show Dot.!