7 Media-Savvy Skills All Parents Need in 2014

Smart strategies for managing your kids' media and technology this year. By Caroline Knorr
Topics: Screen Time
7 Media-Savvy Skills All Parents Need in 2014

Instagram. Snapchat. Facebook. Everyday there's some new thing we parents need to figure out. Getting up to speed -- plus giving our kids guidance and limits -- is a daily challenge.

You don't have to become an expert to help your kids make good decisions. Just get involved in their media lives. By engaging with them, you can help them use these tools responsibly, respectfully, and safely. Here are some ways to be a media-savvy parent this year:

Check out your kids' social sites. From videogames to apps -- even music -- nearly everything has a social component these days. Your kids may enjoy posting status updates, uploading photos, IMing, commenting, gaming or any number of online sharing activities with friends. Ask them to show you where they visit, what they do there, who they talk to, what they upload. Make sure they know the rules for safe, responsible, respectful online communication.

Take their games seriously. Give their favorite game a whirl -- or just ask them to recount their gaming experiences. (In fact, once they start, you may not be able to get them to stop). Use the opportunity to ask them questions about the game, like choices they made, puzzles they solved, or strategies they tried. You may be surprised at how much thought goes into their gameplay. (Check out our favorite video games.)

Share music. With MP3 players and headphones, music is often a solitary experience. But it doesn't have to be. Download some of your favorite oldies but goodies for your kids. Then ask them to play something for you that you've never heard. Have a conversation about the music.

Use YouTube's advanced features. Every kid loves YouTube, but we all know that there are plenty of videos that aren't age-appropriate. Telling your kids to stay off probably won't do any good, so learn how to manage it. Take advantage of YouTube's built-in content filter, Safety Mode, which blocks mature content. Then set up Channel Subscriptions, Playlists, and Watch Later feeds which give you greater control over what your kids watch.

Take control of your TV. There are lots of ways to exert more control over what your kids watch. You can use a digital video recorder, on-demand programming, and websites like Hulu to watch what you want when you want it. This allows you to be choosier about what your kids see. You can preview the shows, fast forward through the ads, use the mute button, and avoid the stuff you don't want your kids to watch.

Research your kids' apps. It's kind of amazing what apps can do. But you have to set some rules around downloading or you may wind up with some age-inappropriate apps. Always read through the app description (and check our reviews) before installing. Play with your kid a few times so you know what the app is capable of -- some offer in-game purchasing, connect with other people, or use your location.

Establish a digital code of conduct. When you give your kids digital devices -- cell phones, computers, and other personal electronics -- set rules around responsible, respectful usage. Check in on where your kids are going online -- look at browser histories, set appropriate age filters, and check out the parental controls. Teach your kids the basics of safe searching. Don't let them figure it all out by themselves.

About Caroline Knorr

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As Common Sense Media's parenting editor, Caroline helps parents make sense of what’s going on in their kids' media lives. From games to cell phones to movies and more, if you're wondering "what’s the right age for…?"... Read more

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Comments (5)

Adult written by Mrscrowie

Hi Caroline, I am keen to inform the parents of our school community informed about being internet savvy. I am just wondering if it is ok to print this blog post in our schools newsletter. You would of course be given full attribution.
Teen, 13 years old written by Useursense

I totally agree. I come from a fairly strict family, (and I have HIGH standards. I mean like, HIGH) I will not get a Facebook until I am sixteen, or when my book get's published. I will NOT have Internet on my laptop until who knows when, I cannot have Internet on my iPod. My parents check my email, and are asking me what's going on in the books I'm reading. I feel more free than some of my other friends who sometimes watch violent movies, or always PG13 rated ones. (I have only watched like, four PG13. Courageous, Thor, which I hate, Man of Steel, which I hate, and the Saratov Approach, which is like, BEST MOVIE EVER!) my friends have Facebook, and phones, and Instagram, but, nevertheless, I am happy that my parents set limits for me, and it shows that they care about me. I would've set those limits for myself anyway, but I am grateful that my parents set them so I would have the more reason to stay on the safe side. Some day, you'll thank your parents for setting up safeguards in this time of evil in the world. (Strict parents are the best parents!!!!! They care A TON!)
Adult written by 492280

Is this article in Spanish? The majority of the population our program serves are Spanish speakers who want information about keeping their children cyber safe.
Teen, 14 years old written by Mr47

This is bogus parents you think your doing your kids a favour but you are not. They just hate you for not letting them watch what they want to watch let them establish their own barriers instead of you setting their opinions for them. If they want to watch The Walking Dead let them if its going to 'mentally scar' them they'll stop watching it themselves. Stop being dictators and start being caretakers.