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We can all use some more ‘common sense’

Raising four kids is tough.

Raising four kids in an age of constant access to a flurry of media content is impossible. Or at least it feels that way some days.

I liken it to a day at the beach. Saying those words “day at the beach” should conjure images of sun and fun, sand and water, a good book under an umbrella, with an adult beverage nearby. When I’m alone or with my wife at the beach, it’s the ultimate picture of relaxation.

As we head into colder weather, as the pandemic raging on, I suspect many of us are having dreams of relaxing beach vacations.

However, most parents will tell you that a day at the beach is anything but relaxing. You’re on constant patrol, slathering protective sun screen on your kids, standing in ankle-deep water while your kids play wannabe surfers trying to catch a “killer” (2-foot high) wave while you’re scanning the sea for fins like its Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

It’s not relaxing. It is hell.

Overseeing their day-to-day media habits and choices is really no different. Honestly, if it weren’t for one of my favorite websites, Common Sense Media, it would feel like a day at the beach.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, this site might sound familiar. I cite Common Sense often when referencing the research they do to help parents keep kids safe online.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve highlighted a few online services where my wife and I donate. We’re trying to give back to nonprofit services that have given us so much over the years.

Common Sense Media is one of those services. As a nonprofit, there’s a comfort in knowing their expert reviews and advice are objective and not bought-and-paid for like reviews on other for-profit sites.

For more than 15 years, they’ve served as a source of recommendations for our family’s media choices.

According to their “About Us” page, millions of parents and educators use Common Sense Media’s reviews and advice every day to help them navigate the digital world with their kids. “Together with policymakers, industry leaders and global media partners, we’re building a digital world that works better for all kids, their families and their communities.”

Families can sign up for free, but if you donate $30 a year for the Common Sense “Plus” membership, you’ll unlock unlimited reviews, entertainment guides, filtering by streaming service (e.g., narrow down searches by Netflix, Hulu, Disney+), content preferences for your kids, early access to special features, an entertainment guide newsletter and top picks delivered via email.

There are membership options for educators and advocates as well.

Common Sense Media’s board of directors boasts an impressive list of experts and policymakers, including former U.S. HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Silicon Valley Community Foundation CEO Nicole Taylor and University of Southern California professor and family communication expert Geoffrey Cowan.

Common Sense Media might not be able to help with sunburns or wipeouts at the beach, but you can bet they’ve got your back when it comes to TV, video game, mobile app, and movie reviews and advice (spoiler alert: apparently “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming” is not a family-friendly flick).

To learn more about Common Sense Media, how to give and how to subscribe to their parent or educator services, go to www.commonsensemedia.org.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is a professor of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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