As usual, Common Sense Media is right on top of the latest media/television family dilemma, and the website has published a short piece to help parents talk with their teenage children about the MTV program, Skins. In Tough Talk: How Parents Can Use MTV’S Skins As a Jumping Off Point, Liz Perle writes, “MTV’s teen drama Skins (a remake of the even edgier British series) showcases every behavior that keeps parents of teenagers up at night.” Perle suggests conversation pointers that can help parents begin conversations on these all too nerve-wracking topics. While these subjects keep parents in a perpetual state of jitters, teenagers confront many of the issues the issues on a daily basis — though honestly the show itself seems overly contrived. Check out the article.
The point is – and this is a Common Sense Media mantra (about page) — no matter how uncomfortable the topic may be, the most important thing is to work hard to keep the dialogue going throughout the challenging teenage years. The conversations, even if they don’t go as smoothly as a parent wishes, nevertheless help adolescent kids think about making better choices.
Parents and teachers are always on the hunt for a reliable Internet site that children can visit time after time and be certain of the quality and reliability of the content. The Internet Public Library (ipl2) fits the bill, a resource that is just as good for adults as it is for children. With a motto of “Information You Can Trust” the IPL2 is a searchable, subject-categorized directory of authoritative websites with links to online texts, newspapers, and other resources. Librarians review everything in the collection.
“Why use Wikipedia?” adults often ask. What they are really asking is, “Should my kids use Wikipedia, and is it a real reference?” For adults who grew up in the age of multiple volumes of well-documented references, it’s hard to wrap our minds around Wikipedia — and even harder to use it.
Digital natives, however, consult Wikipedia all the time, and the number of users and the content is increasing. According to a 2006 review in School Library Journal, “The popular online encyclopedia, whose entries are written and edited by any user, may inspire trepidation, even fear, yet the behemoth is impossible to ignore.” So just who is writing for Wikipedia? A March 2010 MSNBC article Who Writes Wikipedia, describes a research project that aimed to develop profiles of writers who contribute content.
David Pogue’s reviews are useful and even inspiring. Links on the Personal Tech site take readers the Gadgetwise blog with reviews, by a variety of reporters, on digital cameras, cell phones, camcorders, and much more.
Keep an eye out for Pogue’s other short, and very entertaining videocasts, all posted at the Times. They can also be downloaded as podcasts from iTunes.
Common Sense Media, a not-for-profit advocacy organization designed for families, offers trustworthy information, media evaluations, and all sort of online tools to help parents, kids, and educators become more sophisticated consumers. Think of Common Sense Media as an information portal rather than a mere website. Parents, no matter the age of children in the family, can consult the organization’s web site for age appropriate information about movies, current media events, digital citizenship advice, and much more. A separate part of the website provides information for educators and schools. Common Sense Media is non-partisan, and you can learn more at the Common Sense Media FAQ.
As summer 2010 moves swiftly along, we begin thinking, albeit incrementally, about back-to-school preparations.
In addition to traditional preparations — school supplies, lunch boxes, schedules, new shoes and clothes — we often use this time of year to update our digital lives, purchasing new computers, updating Internet access in our homes, and deciding whether or not to purchase cell phones other gadgets (MP3 players, iTouch, iPad) for our children.
Parents and teachers who have been through many back-to-school cycles know that some year when school begins, we unexpectedly become acquainted with new types of digital activities, discovering things that our children have known about all summer long. A few years ago Facebook arrived on the scene in just this way. While the school year does not always begin with digital surprises, experience tells us that, more often than not, a new digital activity or concern arrives on our radar screen — that’s the adult radar — at the beginning of the school year.
So to level the playing field between now and early September, I will post regular links to back-to-school parent “reading assignments.”
A gadget orientation is critical. Before handing over a new mobile phone to a child, take the time to go over general guidelines and expectations. Review these expectations regularly, and update them each time a child’s gets a phone upgrade. Parents may also consider setting up a cell phone contract that spells out how a cell phone expectations and possible consequences when a child breaks the rules.