Free Spirit Media

Website review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
Free Spirit Media Website Poster Image
Positive videos could benefit from more regular releases.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Positive Messages

Several videos encourage kids to have body confidence, respect other people, feature other feel-good, positive themes.

Violence

When mentioned, it's in an informative way -- such as discussing police brutality issues.

Sex

A section on relationships, sexual health includes segments on serious topics such as female genital mutilation, preventing child sexual abuse; they're handled in a respectful, non-gratuitous way.

Language
Consumerism

Kids will see a request to donate to the site, but won't see ads.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A documentary on drug effects on low-income communities offers synopsis of causes, potential solutions to problem.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Free Spirit Media is a video site that focuses on short movies and documentaries about communities, mainly focused around underserved areas in Chicago. Many of the videos have positive messages about body positivity, respecting other people, and other positive messages. If kids click on the YouTube link on videos, they’ll be taken to YouTube's website, where they can leave and read comments. Some YouTube conversations contain insensitive comments and heated arguments about the topics covered in Free Spirit Media's videos.

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What's it about?

FREE SPIRIT MEDIA is produced by several hundred underserved youth in Chicago that participate each year in creating new videos, according to its site. Established by a filmmaker in 2000 as part of a high school sports broadcasting program, the program provides training and assistance to teens and young adults to create short documentaries that address community and other social issues. The site contains a catalog of their work (roughly 96 videos, to date), information and news about the program, and information on how to donate to the site.

Is it any good?

This video site covers a large number of subjects in a positive way, but its random release schedule limits its beneficial impact. Because teens produce the short films, the tone should resonate with younger viewers. That said, the site's videos are really the only significantly educational content that's available. There's no information on how to produce documentaries, unfortunately, or much about what was involved in bringing each project to life. Some video descriptions mention a bit about the theme and program participants involved, but others don't offer much background; most descriptions are short -- just a few sentences. In addition, a couple of categories feel like placeholders for something else. Instead of videos on climate change, global warming, or any related topics, the environmental section, for instance, contains videos about taking public transit and poetry and drumming workshops.

That may change, as more items are added -- which seems to happen somewhat sporadically. In 2016, about 40 percent of the videos that were posted were added on one day. Last year, approximately 30 films were posted during the year; 19 were added in 2015, which would imply production is increasing -- but as of mid-March, no videos have been added for 2017. The schedule may be built around the completion of workshops or other training programs. But if the program could ration out its new films, posting them more frequently, instead of in bursts, it might help make Free Spirit Media's site more of a reference point for kids -- and keep them coming back more often.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about storytelling. Which storytelling method do you child prefer: learning about a topic by listening to a discussion about it, watching a video about the subject, or reading about it?

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  • Talk about news coverage and how filmmakers and the media share important stories. What are some examples of topics from the site viewers may not have known about if Free Spirit Media didn't cover them?

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  • Do you pay more attention to online videos -- or radio segments you hear? What seems to be a more effective way to reach the most people?

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Website details

For kids who love film

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