Review by Common Sense Editor, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2012

AsktheJudge.info

Trustworthy Judge Tom responds to teens' tough questions

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7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Information is reliable on hot-button topics from cyberbullying and alcohol use to sexting.

Cons: Overly cluttered design makes it a bit difficult to navigate.

Bottom Line: If you were a teenager, you'd probably want an anonymous way to ask questions about important, and sometimes uncomfortable, legal questions.

AsktheJudge.info can get teens talking about tough and sometimes uncomfortable issues. It can be a great way for them to broach subjects they want to know about but might not feel comfortable bringing up to teachers or their friends. Be warned: For better or for worse, the site doesn't shy away from many topics, so if you're uncomfortable talking about the morning-after pill or the smoking of synthetic drugs, this might not be a resource for you.

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Teens have no shortage of "what if" questions when it comes to ethics and legal issues, but they often find it difficult to ask parents and teachers. AsktheJudge.info, a website run by former judge and assistant attorney general Tom Jacobs, can help fill that void by addressing sensitive legal and ethical topics in a risk-free environment.

The site covers subjects from the legalities of texting inappropriate images and a student's religious rights in school to why communities ban books. Judge Tom answers visitor-submitted questions in clear language often punctuated by personal stories that illustrate a point. He speaks in the language of teens, perhaps aided by his teen advisors -- a true strength of AsktheJudge.info.

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On the homepage, multiple links lead to chat rooms, the most popular trending questions, articles, and more. The barrage of choices might overwhelm users, but hot-button issues are easy enough to get to, and users are encouraged to anonymously post questions that Judge Tom or his teen panel will answer. The site makes clear, however, that the responses are informational only and should not be construed as legal advice.

One of the most compelling features is advice from a group of teens, and there's an anonymous chat room for kids (as well as a parent chat room), where issues get hashed out in a public but respectful way. Students who feel awkward or embarrassed to discuss these types of questions in school now have a place where they can ask questions worry free.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Teen-friendly language and frank engagement with sometimes uncomfortable issues make this a good place for teens to ask legal and ethical questions.

 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Judge Tom and his youth advisors use personal experience to illustrate answers -- a great way to see how storytelling fosters understanding. Teens can learn a lot about issues and laws.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

The site is a bit cluttered and not easily navigated. Also, we want to know about the judge! Info on Tom Jacobs is buried, but we think it should be front and center to reinforce the validity of his responses.


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Rylan S. , Counselor, psychologist, or social worker
Counselor, psychologist, or social worker
4
Great legal resource for students!

I really like this product and feel that it helps students find answers to questions that teens often have. I especially like the articles written by teens since I feel students are often more likely to listen to their peers than their teachers. The website also offers a great resource directory for teens and parents. I love that parents are included in this education process and feel they are a critical element to most legal proceedings involving teens. There are also chat rooms for teens and parents so they can reach out to other teens and parents. My only concern is that there is some background information given about the judge (Tom, a retired juvenile court judge), but his credentials are not available to be checked. Since I stress to my students the importance of verifying sources, this was a concern for both me and my students.

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