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…?" Caroline can help you make the decision that works best for your family. She has more than 20 years of editorial and creative marketing writing experience and has held senior-level positions at Walmart.com, Walmart stores, Cnet, and Bay Area Parent magazine. She specializes in translating complex information into bite-sized chunks to help families make informed choices about what their kids watch, play, read, and do. And she's the proud mom of a teenage son whose media passions include Star Wars, StarCraft, graphic novels, and the radio program This American Life.
Blog Post List
June 7, 2018
Happiness is a warm puppy. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. Don't worry, be happy! Rules for how to live happily are nothing new. But lately, our well-being -- and that of our kids -- seems to be in free fall. Depression , anxiety , and even youth suicide rates are increasing, as is cell phone and device use and the constant expectation to be "on." Raising kids to be happy in today's world isn't impossible: Many generations of parents have managed to do so when the threats were way worse than FOMO . We just need to rewrite the rules for the digital age. The quest to make sure...
May 10, 2018
From cyberbullying to FOMO to cruel comments, social media can be a land mine for kids. Issues we parents never had to worry about, such as an intimate photo texted to the entire school or Instagram videos of a birthday party we weren't invited to, are now a risk for many tweens and teens. With kids' digital well-being a concern, researchers are exploring potential links between social media and the rise in teen suicide rates , tech addiction , and loss of real-life social skills . And many parents are wondering: Is social media causing my kid to have anxiety? It's an important question --...
April 27, 2018
Whether or not you smoke cigarettes or support legalizing marijuana, you probably don't want your kids lighting up. But the rise of e-cigs , vaporizers like the Juul , and decriminalized pot may make your standard anti-smoking arguments -- "it causes cancer," "it's illegal" -- feel a little shaky. Add in celebrities posting pictures of themselves smoking various substances, and you might wonder: Is it possible to raise drug-free, smoke-free kids in the era of Smoking 2.0? Yes, but it helps to have a little ammunition. If you're feeling outspent, out-messaged, and out-cooled, take heart. There...
March 29, 2018
For a lot of families, technology is maybe not a way of life but the glue that holds everything together. There's your kid's Instagram feed you follow to see what they're up to. There's your school's online network you check for homework and grades. There's the mapping app that gets you to your kids' playdates. And then there are the regular old texts from your kids that say "hi Mom" and let you know all is well. But this connection and convenience comes at a price -- and that's your data . With increasing frequency, we're seeing large privacy violations -- when hackers get access to people's...
March 15, 2018
From sexting to cyberbullying to FOMO , social media sure has its share of negatives. But, if it's all bad, how did 2,000 students protest their school system's budget cuts ? How are teens leading the charge against cyberbullying? How did they organize a national school walkout day to protest gun laws ? Easy: savvy use of social media. For a few years now, many teens have been saying that social media -- despite its flaws -- is mostly positive . And new research is shedding light on the good things that can happen when kids connect, share, and learn online. As kids begin to use tools such as...
February 23, 2018
One of the toughest jobs of parenting is talking to your kids about difficult subjects. It's hard enough to explain when Mr. Teddy Bear gets eaten by the washing machine. Or how their bike got stolen at school. It feels impossible to put into words the really big issues, such as violence, racism, drugs, and other weighty topics . But in the age of cell phone notifications, streaming video, and 24-hour news coverage -- when even little kids are exposed to really serious stories -- it's important to face this challenge head-on. Addressing the tough stuff makes your kids feel safer, strengthens...
February 1, 2018
For a fun family-and-friends event, the Super Bowl sure generates a lot of controversy: the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" of 2004, Tom Brady's deflate-gate, and that scary, depressing Nationwide Insurance "dead kid" ad that had parents all over the country covering their kids' eyes. This year, with brewing disputes about protesting the national anthem, football and concussions, player arrests, and accusations of sexual harassment , the Big Game promises to bring up serious issues that aren't necessarily age-appropriate for the show's youngest viewers. Of course, there will be plenty of good...
January 18, 2018
Every parent wants to raise a kid with a conscience -- someone who'll do the right thing even when no one is watching. But when the road to online integrity is riddled with cyberbullying , cell phone cheating , sexting , and other risks, trusting your kid to be conscientious feels like a leap of faith. Here's the good news: Studies show that kids actually have a strong grasp of right and wrong as early as the toddler years, and parents have a huge influence on what kids learn about how to behave. The parenting you've been doing -- role-modeling, keeping the lines of communication open, and...
January 10, 2018
Fake news has gotten a lot of attention . Even the term has earned several definitions. The quantity and types of news sources in the digital age have made it more challenging to determine what's real and what's fake. Reputable news outlets adhere to a code of ethical standards that ensures that what's being reported is true to the best of their knowledge. They publish their codes of ethics and standards on their websites. You can read the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics to get a sense of the rules reporters must follow. Of course, a lot of times, figuring out what's real...
January 4, 2018
If there's one thing nearly every parent wants to get better at, it's staying ahead of their kids when it comes to media and technology. From crazy YouTube videos to marathon Minecraft sessions to sexy selfies , kids are constantly testing the limits (and our patience) with new stuff they want to download, watch, and play. Even as we encourage our kids to use their devices for good (homework, making things, learning stuff), we still butt heads over safety , screen time , age-appropriate content, and the importance of making eye contact instead of staring at your screen when a human being is...
December 4, 2017
"Mommy, what's sexual harassment?" You were hoping that the daily news reports of famous and powerful men being accused of sexual misconduct would fly right past your kid's radar. But like other unfortunate events you've had to explain far before your kid was ready , the news -- especially bad news -- has a way of seeping into their world. And now you're stuck: How do you talk about sexual harassment if you haven't even talked about sex? Take one topic at a time. Try tackling the news and the sex angles separately. Young children have a hard time understanding abstract concepts. But you can...
November 1, 2017
Behind the apps, games, and social media is a whole crew of folks whose job is to make their products feel essential. Many of the techniques they use are ones outlined by experts in human behavior, including Nir Eyal author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and BJ Fogg of Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab. Harris argues that these methods "hijack" our own good judgment. Most teens care deeply about peer validation, for example. So it makes sense that friends' feedback on social media -- both the positive and the negative -- would tug at you until you satisfy your curiosity. You have a phone in your pocket, so why not check now? And now. And now?
October 11, 2017
In 1975, there was one song every kid knew by heart: "Two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun." By any measure, it was a viral success. Companies still use tweens and teens to do their marketing for them. And today's youth marketing methods still focus on activities kids love, such as sending funny GIFs, watching YouTube, and applying cool Snapchat filters. But yesterday's Big Mac song is today's big data grab: The information trail your kids leave behind online equals big bucks for companies . You'll only find out what you're giving up by reading...
October 4, 2017
No matter how old your kids are, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally. Many can feel worried, frightened, angry, or even guilty. And these anxious feelings can last long after the news event is over. So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal with all this information?
September 28, 2017
If you're raising kids today, it can be easy to focus on the negative. And it's no wonder: Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, social media, cell phone notifications -- and even sources you wouldn't expect, like Instagram and YouTube -- kids are immersed in doom and gloom . Consider their world: The suicide rate is up , cyberbullying is rampant, the United States is more divided than ever, and people are now live-streaming murder and suicide. So it's understandable if you don't feel like putting on a happy face every day and keeping your kids optimistic about the future. But don't give up...
June 29, 2017
A new Common Sense Media study shows that learning gender roles from movies and TV shows has real consequences on kids' self-esteem, relationships -- and even their future careers.
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