6 Resources to Help Parents Navigate Popular Media and Technology

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.1

No pressure, right? We’re only completely responsible for all the cognitive potential, social skills, and behavioral functioning a child acquires during their early years. All this, plus keep them safe on the playground, and make sure they eat their vegetables.

A while ago, I decided that parents the world over are all doomed to mess up their kids in their own special way. (Okay, not entirely… we’re bound to get some of it right.) I’m not really this cynical. I extend a lot of grace to my fellow parents and educators out there.

Perfection is not realistic. There are so many “shoulds” and conflicting advice from “experts” that most of us feel defeated before we exit the Labor and Delivery ward. When referring to parenthood, Bunmi Laditan, author of “Confessions of a Domestic Failure” nailed it when she said the following:

How to be a parent in 2017… Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, under-stimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian, but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two story, multi-lingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a back yard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least 2 years apart for proper development. Also… don’t forget the coconut oil.”

There are a lot of opposing ideas about what’s important, safe, and developmentally age-appropriate for our kids. And what’s more, now we’re parenting “wired” kids. They have easy access to an entire digital world of potential hurt, distraction, and deceit.

“Stranger Danger” now includes cyber safety. Strangers can virtually come into your home via the Internet, video games, social media, and chat rooms. Popular movies and television contain more violence, mature content, messages about body image and attitudes that are potentially harmful to our impressionable children.

At the risk of opening a can of worms, some might say that family values are deteriorating. Others would say they are simply evolving. Whether you lean left or right politically, or land somewhere in the middle, we can all agree that family values should first be defined at home. Naturally, as our children mature, they’ll develop their own ideas and values, but right now, we are their guides.

Parents today have to be more discerning and well-informed about the outside influences vying for our kids’ time and attention. So, what’s a well-meaning parent to do? I’m going to oversimplify it:

Navigating Popular Media & Technology for Parents

Common Sense Media

A nonprofit organization, Common Sense Media focuses on empowering parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information and trusted advice regarding popular media and technology. They believe the media and technology industries should put kids’ needs first when creating and marketing their products. They claim the largest and most trusted library of developmentally-appropriate age ratings and reviews for movies, apps, games, TV shows, websites, books and music. They also supply lists of “safe” channels to watch on YouTube, Best Apps for Families, and other kid-relevant resources.

Smart, Safe & Social

An important resource for parent and educators, Smart, Safe & Social offers live webinars, tutorials and tools to “teach parents and students how to shine online.” Topics like- “8 Social Media Safety Talking Points for Parents” and “Learn the Hidden Parts of Snapchat”     Their “Footprint Friday” tool helps parents monitor the online footprint of their student once a week in less than five minutes. There are App guides for parents and teachers, and school assembly presentations.

Plugged In

Plugged In is a publication of Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive. Through media reviews, articles, and discussions, they provide insight into what messages are being conveyed in current movies, videos, television episodes, songs, and games. They offer advice about filtering software such as Clearplay for playing DVD and streaming movies in the home, and Net Nanny for internet safety.

NetSmartz Workshop

A program from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), NetSmartz Workshop’s mission is to educate children about potential internet risks using resources such as videos, games, activity cards, and presentations. They entertain while they educate.

Parent Previews

Parent Previews has been providing family-friendly movie reviews for over 20 years. They review all the basic artistic aspects of a film – the storyline, cinematography, editing, and performances – but their primary goal is to give parents an idea of what they’ll encounter when they take their kids to the movies. Insights like a film’s violence, sexual content, profanities and substance use as well as both positive and negative themes included in the script.

Family Education

With a wide variety of resources for parents and care-givers, Family Education topics range from pregnancy expectations to family vacation planning. Within their thorough library of resources you’ll find thought-provoking articles relating to kids’ screen time, violent video games, and more. They strive to help children enjoy TV shows, movies, and online fun in a safe and balanced way. They also dive into topics such as “10 Apps for Parents to Monitor Kids’ Mobile Use,” and “6 Safe Search Engines for Kids.”

As a parent myself, I’m just beginning to weave my way through this wired world from my kids’ points of view. I’ll take all the help I can get to raise kids who have a strong moral compass, act responsibly, and interact safely in the digital world.

This is not a comprehensive list of resources, so please leave us a comment with any others you wish to share with readers… It takes a village, Frisco!