New Partnership Helps Parents Engage in Their Kids Digital Lives

Program offers guidance on helping kids make smart and safe digital media choices
For immediate release
Thursday, April 23, 2009

AUGUSTA, ME – A new partnership will provide parents with the information they need to help their kids make safe and smart decisions about how they use the Internet, mobile phones, social networking sites, TV, and other digital media.

The partnership announced Thursday by the Maine Department of Education and Common Sense Media will work with parent-teacher groups to pilot the program, which helps parents understand the technology children are using.

“This is about far more than just internet safety,” said Maine Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron. “This partnership offers us the best opportunity to engage parents even more deeply in our technology programs and to provide them with important information about the ever-changing digital media issues that kids experience every day. Common Sense Media’s expertise in helping parents manage the 24/7 media lives that kids live in today makes them the perfect partner for us.”

The pilot program for Maine schools is modeled on the already successful Common Sense Media Schools program, which launched in November 2008 and provides more than 2,000 schools across the country with free, simple-to-use materials about digital media issues.  The program offers parent tip sheets, videos and discussion guides on issues such as social networking, cyber bullying, digital etiquette, gaming, virtual worlds, commercialism and cheating. The program also provides training and support to help schools effectively communicate the information to parents.

The pilot program is designed for parents of elementary and middle school children and costs nothing for school systems or the state. Common Sense Media will provide materials, as well as face-to-face and online training for parent groups. Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director at the Maine Department of Education, said he hopes the program will attract 30 to 40 schools for the pilot program.

Gendron said parent involvement “is critical to youth development, improved student achievement, and to successfully expanding and improving Maine’s state-wide technology initiatives.”

“Maine has been a leader in education innovation for many years and so it’s no surprise that the State is leading the way in digital media education for parents,” said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media.  “We constantly hear from educators and parents around the country that they feel like ‘tourists’ in the media lives of their kids.  This partnership is designed to provide both educators and parents with all of the information they need to understand the technology kids are using and to offer smart guidance, while avoiding potential dangers.”

Common Sense Media is the nation's leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the impact of media and entertainment on kids and families. Common Sense Media provides trustworthy ratings and reviews of media and entertainment based on child development criteria created by leading national experts. Maine schools that are interested in participating should contact Emily Hunt at Common Sense Media ehunt@commonsensemedia.org or 415.553.6702.  In-person trainings for the pilot program have been scheduled for May 14 (Bangor) and May 15 (Scarborough).  To learn more about the Common Sense Schools program, visit http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators.

With the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, Maine became the first state to provide laptops to all public school students in grades 7 and 8, as well as teachers in grades 7 through 12, and the first to plan for deployment of laptops to all public high school students. MLTI is about much more than just technology, supporting learning with professional development and support to fully tap the potential of computers and the Internet. Laptops go home with students, so they have home access to research and learning opportunities. The Legislature is now considering approval of a contract that would allow high schools to participate in the 1-to-1 program, if they desire. More information can be found at: www.maine.gov/mlti.

Press Contacts:
Maine Department of Education
Jeff Mao, Learning Technology Policy Director, 207-624-6634/798-2460

David Connerty-Marin, Director of Communications, 207-624-6880/831-3313

Common Sense Media
Marisa Connolly, Communications Manager, Common Sense Media, (415) 553-6703