My cousin and I crossed paths in Tampa over Thanksgiving. Aside from the goodness of recapturing some lost time he shared with me the company that he works for as their business developer. In light of the discussion this month on postmodernism and especially the role of media’s influence, I thought that Omari Miller’s background might offer some input on how to use media as a tool without embracing it as a philosophy of life. The name of the company is Common Sense Media and I think whether you have kids or not if you are engaging with any form of media you will find what they do beneficial. Having a 3 year old and a 10 month old (going on 18 going on 7 respectively) the website has been helpful for looking at movies and processing through the content in them. And I’ll be downloading a whole other set of apps for my phone now (please do not let my wife know about that part. We’ll never get anything accomplished. lol) In keeping with critical thinking: a few moments of careful consideration of what you are viewing in comparison to what to the 2-4 hours being entertained is not a bad deal. I encourage you to read his overview and check the website out.

Here is company’s mission in his own words. And many thanks for the input Omari:

Common Sense Media’s mission is to improve the media and technologies lives of kids and families. We understand that there’s a universe of opportunities presented for kids to explore, experience, learn and interact. The majority of these can be fantastic, some are harmful. It’s important for kids and their families to understand this brave new world. CSM advocates for them through three arms that act to rate, educate and advocate.

1. Rate
CSM has partnered with leading authorities in child development and behavioral sciences to create a system by which media content is reviewed for age-appropriateness in an objective way. Think of this like nutritional labeling. In this example of our review of Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, you’ll see how each review is broken down.

The reviewers and their editors evaluate the standard “pain points” for parents, as established by the child development model. These categories are:
  a) Educational value
  b) Messages
  c) Role models
  d) Sexy stuff
  e) Language
  f) Consumerism
  g) Drinking, drugs and smoking

The content is reviewed in its particular context and compared to what we call a development grid that shows what’s appropriate for each age from 2-17. For each category, the review explicitly lists what’s noteworthy, given the perspective of a child development specialist and then assigns an overall recommendation of age-appropriateness (e.g. – “on” for 9 and above, “iffy” for 7 to 8, etc).

The most important thing to note here is that the reviews are the only of their type that provide information from the perspective of a parent, with guidance from child development experts, and are free from industry or political bias. The entertainment industry provides ratings that are vague, confusing or misleading. What does PG-13 mean, for example? Why is it PG-13? Maybe a dad doesn’t mind certain sexual references, but doesn’t like the violent scenes for his son. The “nutritional labeling” we provide allows that dad to make a judgment on his own. And certain parent or “family value” groups are out to advance their own agendas. Many of them provide kneejerk reactions to media content they find objectionable for subjective reasons. If you subscribe to all of their judgments, that’s fine for you and your family, but for the huge majority of families, this wouldn’t be the case.

The other part of the review is the critical evaluation of whether or not the content is any good (from a creative standpoint). It could be perfectly appropriate, but a horrible movie, TV show, etc. Our reviewers are freelancers who also do work for the likes of USA Today, CNET, the New York Times and other outlets. They are subject experts and will, on that point, deliver a judgment whether the content is any good.

CSM has about 14,000 reviews of movies, TV shows, apps, books, and music. All can be found at www.commonsense.org . We also serve ratings and reviews content to media partners like DirecTV, Comcast, Cox, Netflix, AOL, Yahoo!, etc. who deliver the information to their users online or on-screen.
2. Educate
The very best information available to the experts who study media/technology consumption indicates that outside of not having access to media and technology (what has been commonly referred to as the Digital Divide) the greatest threat to kids in these spaces is how they behave with themselves and with others. While all of the major industry players are trying to develop more and more sophisticated filters, usage monitoring/tracking tools, etc. the leading studies show that the best that can be done for kids is educate them and have caregivers who are engaged and educated. This is why CSM exists.

CSM provides a comprehensive suite of tip sheets, articles, videos and other resources in its Parents Advice area at www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents. They’re free, developed by experts and help parents make choices for their families, understand what kids are doing with media and technology, and engage their children on important issues. Many of our media partners are licensing these resource so they can deliver them to their users as well.

Our Educational Department has developed a Digital and Citizenship Program that is the best of its kind. This teaches kids what it means to smartly and safely use digital media and technology. The hot button topics in this area right now are cyberbullying, identifying and avoiding predatory behavior, appreciating the impact of behavior on social media and how to use the Internet to conduct research and other deep thinking exercises (like, why Wikipedia may not be an acceptable authority when writing a term paper). More than 10,000 schools in 65 countries have implemented this as part of their curriculum. We have demonstration sites (where teachers receive formal training from Common Sense and we get data about implementation, student response, etc.) setup with the New York City Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified Schools, schools here in the Bay Area, Omaha Public Schools and the State of Maine Department of Education.

We just sponsored a teen forum in event in Omaha with MTV. It was hosted by Sway and will travel to a few other cities. The Omaha event was attended by 500 kids, 150 parents and teachers, and the Mayor proclaimed the day Digital Citizenship Day in Omaha. Find video’s here. This might give you a better sense of what kids are confronting and what parents should be on top of.

3. Advocate
Our Policy Department is very influential in Washington and at the state level, including with the FCC, the Whitehouse, US Senate and House of Representatives, and numerous state governors and legislators. CSM advocates no party position, but just looks to advocate for the media and technology interests of kids and family.

8 thoughts on “>COMMON SENSE MEDIA

  1. >See there Q. You are crazy. I'll be sure to tell Omari your thoughts if he doesn't post himself. I just copied his words and pasted…just call me an admin. Hopefully you'll find what they do useful in your ministry sir.

  2. >I went to the website and think it is done well and has a wonderful concept. Dont have children but saved the site to my favorites for future reference. I do hope that Mr. Omari does respond. I didn't understand the following statement and hope that he can further explain it. The “nutritional labeling” we provide allows that dad to make a judgment on his own. And certain parent or “family value” groups are out to advance their own agendas. Many of them provide kneejerk reactions to media content they find objectionable for subjective reasons. If you subscribe to all of their judgments, that’s fine for you and your family, but for the huge majority of families, this wouldn’t be the case

  3. >Hello All,I'm glad that we're talking about this and I hope that you'll tell other families about this suite of resources.@Ms. Hegwood – What I meant about "nutritional labeling" is that we recognize that there may be hundreds… thousands of groups advocating family values with scores of different viewpoints on any given subject. These viewpoints are driven by all sorts of reasons = cultural, political, or "look, that's just how I feel." What opinion I subscribe to as a parent may be slightly or vastly different than what Delano does… and both may contradict how you raise your child. The critical point I was trying to make (perhaps rather inarticulately in a lunchtime email to my cousin) is that Common Sense isn't looking to advance any particular values agenda. But in a broadly ecumenical way, we say: "Hey, here's what's in it. You as the parent can make the choice about whether you want your child to consume it or not."To further the "nutritional labeling" analogy, it likes Common Sense Media telling you "Hey parents, there's sugar in the cereal. Delano might say as a parent: "I'm cool with a little sugar as long as it's not high fructose corn syrup." I might say: "Nope, no sugar at all for my child." You might say something different. The important thing is that whether that "sugar" is media content dealing with sex, drugs, consumerism or any other common issue facing kids and families, we all have the information we need to arrive at the best decision for our families.All of the resources at CSM are free. You can go to the iTunes store and download our free app so you can have the ratings and reviews in your pocket. If you have DirecTV, you'll find our ratings and reviews on the on-screen guide. Check out our reviews when you're looking for your next Netflix movie. Comcast has our reviews in an on-screen parental resource center… the same with Time Warner Cable. If your internet or cable provider doesn't have Common Sense, tell them to contact Omari, okay?

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