In the world of media, especially online, there are endless amounts of content and choices, and the number of options continues to grow every day. As a parent, guardian, or educator, it can often be overwhelming and exhausting to sift through this abundance in order to find age-appropriate viewing experiences. It's at this critical juncture that CommonSenseMedia.org steps in. According to their website, Common Sense Media "is the nation’s leading independent non-profit organization dedicated to empowering kids to thrive in a world of media and technology. Families, educators, and policymakers turn to Common Sense for unbiased information and trusted advice to help them learn how to harness the positive power of media and technology for all kids." This edition of TECH YOURSELF will explore some of the information and resources that Common Sense has to offer as well as provide a basic guide for how to navigate the site more easily.
The main navigation of Common Sense revolves around the Menu Bar at the top of each page.
The Reviews tab gives you access to reviews about new releases, educational apps & games, movies, TV books, games, apps, and websites. When you click on each type of media, you are directed to a page that lists the latest reviewed items in that category. Each review has a thumbnail of the media item (such as a promotional picture of the movie or musical album or book) along with a quick-guide which includes the title of the item, the appropriate age level range for the media, a quality 5-star review system, and a short summary of the item. Inside each media category, it also allows you to sort the items listed by "Most Recent", "Stars (high to low)", and "Age (low to high)."
The Top Picks tab directs you to Common Sense's list of the best-rated items from each media category for kids and general family members. It also gives you the option of showing every item for "All Ages" or narrowing the list of items by age-level including "Preschoolers (2-4)", "Little Kids (5-7)", "Big Kids (8-9)", "Tweens (10-12)", and "Teens (13+)."
The Family Guides tab houses age-level recommendations for each media category and also has videos and articles providing parents with tips, guides on how to choose appropriate media, tricks to accessing media in a cheaper or smarter way, and advice on how to raise your kids to read more, among many other topics. In the drop-down menu under Family Guides, there is also a Special Needs Apps category for parents with developmentally unique children and which serves as a great resource for building life skills including communication, social interaction, organization, reading/writing, math, and motor skills.
The Parent Concerns tab contains an incredible and diverse collection of articles surrounding a large variety of media issues, concerns, and discussion topics, including (but not limited to) cyber-bullying, violence in the media, special needs and learning difficulties, and the appropriate amount of screen time for children.
The Videos tab showcases short video media item reviews, media item previews, educational topics, tips for how to handle certain types of conversations, and general informative videos about who Common Sense is and why they do what they do.
The Blogs tab consists of a multitude of blog articles and authors discussing a wide array of media topics ranging from "Explaining The News To Our Kids" to "How Has Social Media Changed Teen Girls' Lives?"
The For Educators tab is a great source of information, helpful links, and learning materials for teachers, administrators, parents, and educators alike including curriculum training, webinars, digital citizenship resources, and professional learning communities.
The Kids Action tab leads you to learn about one of Common Sense Media's greatest missions: to make children America's top priority through education, outreach, media literacy, and positive legislative change. It also urges visitors to get involved and take action in their own communities.
The Latino tab transports you to a Spanish-language version of the site.
The About Us tab provides information about who Common Sense Media is, their mission, their Board of Directors, the research that goes into their findings, donating to the cause, and possible job opportunities available.