Common Sense Media: The Basic Rules of Parenting Apply


Technology and media are fabulous additions to our lives, but teaching kids to manage these resources is the #1 issue in parent’s lives

Common Sense Media

We all have a story about the movie that we should not have let our children watch. For me, it was Old Yeller.

I cozied up on the couch with my two young kids, trusting that the movie’s literary credential (based on a Newberry-Honor winning book from 1956 by Fred Gipson), and a Walt Disney Pictures label, made the movie a fine choice for my Elementary Aged kids.

Disney's Old Yeller

Cut to ninety minutes later when my seven year-old daughter was crying inconsolably, grief stricken after watching the film’s young hero shoot his dog dead. We’d turned the film off 15 minutes earlier, but she was still inconsolable. (Spoiler alert — the dog, Old Yeller, gets rabies, and as a test of his impending manhood, the boy has to put his own dog down).

Had I read the Common Sense Media film rating for Old Yeller before I chose it for our movie night, I would have been properly prepared for the shock of those final scenes. I might have even decided to wait to watch the film with my kids unit they were a little older. Instead, the classic film will always be remembered as the one that launched a thousand tears.

Here’s why you should add Common Sense Media to your parental toolbox:

RATINGS: By quickly checking on Common Sense Media’s robust website, or their handy app, you have everything you need to make decisions about what you want your kids to watch, or read, or play. In a store, and the kids want to buy a certain video game? You can look it up and see if it’s likely that “everyone is playing it, Mom!”. Looking for a book for a gift or  to occupy the kids on a long plane or car trip? Go online and check out CSM’s current research.

DIGITAL DISTRACTIONS: Kids these days spend up to 7.5 hours a day attached to some type of digital device.  By definition, parents are always going to be two-steps behind the technology. We need to learn all we can about the ever-changing digital distractions in our kid’s lives, but we can never be on top of everything they’re doing. So, the only sane choice is to equip kids to make the right choices about how they use the internet and their ever-present cellphones.

Common Sense Media has a range of tools to help parents do just that. With a plethora of practical advice calibrated to different ages, you’ll find helpful tips here to establish boundaries about media, instill online manners, and ensure online safety.

INTERNET SAFETY: Here are some of the issues that Common Sense Media can help you with: The amount of time your kids spend with media; cellphones, privacy issues; keeping away from inappropriate content; damage to their reputations and cyberbullying.

Common Sense Media

Here are Yalda Uhls’s Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age:

Yalda T. Uhls, MBA, PhD is Common Sense Media’s Regional Coordinator for Los Angeles. She  is a researcher with the Children’s Digital Media Center at UCLA, and specializes in research about children and technology. Here is a link to her blog, and what follows are notes from a recent talk Yalda had with a group of parents.

Parenting is still parenting.  We can’t abdicate our responsibility just because technology seems to be overly pervasive.  Guiding our children as they grow up is the same job as it has always been.  When I get bewildered by a question that involves kids and technology, I try to take tech out of the equation and figure out what the underlying issue might be. It’s as simple as asking what grandma would say — after all, it is our job to teach manners and self-restraint, both of which kids need to manage their digital lives safely and successfully.

Kids are still kids. Their cellphones and the internet are just the latest factors that complicate their lives. As parents, we have to be careful not to shoot the messenger (technology) and work on to staying focused on the emotions that our kids are experiencing.  The old saws still apply: teach your kids good restraint (when and when not to use their phones, don’t say anything on line that you wouldn’t say in person) and insist on plenty of face-to-face time (that means family dinner without screens!).

1. Model responsible media use. (That means not texting at the stoplight, or checking your iPhone during meals).

2. Create device free time in your lives (and not just on vacation!).

3. Choose your battles. Be realistic about what behaviors you can change, what you need to jump on for safety reasons, and what you can look past in the present, but tackle at a later date.

4. Live where your kids live – ask your kids to help you set up an Instagram account, or let them share a favorite YouTube video with you. They’re digital natives, after all, and will enjoy sharing their world with you.

5. Jump on those teachable moments:  If a child visits your house and spends his whole time on the phone, take a moment to think how those lousy manners made each of you feel.  Take a nasty text message: ask the kids how the words might be different if said aloud – either on the phone, or in person? And, in matters of the heart — who better than you knows what it is like to feel the sting of a friend’s rejection, or the thrill of a new crush?

If you would like a Common Sense Media represetative to visit your school or parenting group, please contact the LA Office at 310-689-7535.