Here is company’s mission in his own words. And many thanks for the input Omari:
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
c) Role models
d) Sexy stuff
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.
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.
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.