Helping Parents Raise 'Smart Media Kids'

August 21, 2012
Kelsey Herron
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Common Sense Resources, Digital Citizenship, Digital Literacy, Parents and Families

Determining how much is too much when it comes to children and digital media is a hard boundary to define, but as experts have found, banning technology altogether is not the most effective solution. In Lexington, Mass. writer Audra Myerberg debated this issue in her column Raising Lexington, and turned to our Digital Literacy and Citizenship classroom curriculum for additional guidance.

Myerberg is mom to two children, 6 and 4. Shortly after a summer-long household ban on screen time, Myerberg realized she could never completely control her children’s use of digital media.

“It wasn’t until my kids were surrounded by their teenaged cousins this past week that I realized, as much as I try to control it, media -- social or otherwise -- is a part of our culture now and it just might be better to educate them about it and teach them the best way to use it to their advantage,” she said.

It was with this realization that Myerberg stumbled on Common Sense Media’s mission statement, which explains our dedication to providing progressive and trustworthy digital literacy education.

“Yes!” she wrote, “instead of banning it all together I will teach my kids how to use it more responsibly. And maybe, just maybe, schools will start to pick up on this and embrace Common Sense Media’s free (yes, I said free) Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum.”

Our lessons are not only available for free on our website, but are categorized by grade and subject. We aim to maximize flexibility and customization for classroom use, as Myerberg points out:

“[T]he curriculum that Common Sense has put together allows for a teacher to use it in any order they wish and as much or as little as they wish. A teacher could use a little bit each month or tack it onto an existing lesson. Students could have materials sent home and parents could be taught how to work with their kids to teach it at home.”

For parents and teachers who are just starting to educate young children about the online world, our lessons on general internet safety may be particularly helpful. “Going Places Safely” for children in Grades K-1, for example,  explains how to find exciting places online while still being safe. Subsequent sections, such as “Screen out the Mean” and “The Power of Words,” are ideal for Grades 2-5, as are a part of our “Connected Culture” unit. These lessons are the perfect segue into some of our more in-depth curricula that flesh out tougher issues like cyberbullying and online relationships.

Myerberg’s point that it’s better to moderate children’s media use than ban it is an important one to consider. The end of summer when the “summer slide” is in full swing, make for the perfect time to talk with children about their media habits and empower them with information that yields informed decisions online.

“We all agree that media is here to stay and our kids have embraced the new technology with open arms, said Myerberg. “With that, I have decided to arm my children with the tools they need to be smart media kids."