Article: 11 Online Summer Camps to Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) While School’s Out by Common Sense Media

Article: 11 Online Summer Camps to Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) While School’s Out by Common Sense Media

screen-time

From outdoor adventures to summer enrichment to computer coding, online camps keep kids busy, learning, and having fun.

Virtual summer camps — where kids head to the computer instead of the pool or park — are a thing now. But don’t worry: These aren’t the solitary, sedentary, screen-centered experiences you fear. Plenty of virtual summer camps offer kids the chance to make projects, investigate ideas, and explore the world. And many are free.

Going to camp online is a great way to keep your kids occupied during a “staycation” or between their other activities. It can also give kids something unique: individual attention. You, a babysitter, a grandparent, or even an older sibling act as virtual camp counselors, leading — and even learning alongside — your kids. With many of the virtual camps below, you can mix and match activities to tailor the experience to your kids’ interests. Expect to be more involved if you go for the free, choose-your-own-adventure camps. But fee-based camps call for some adult participation, too. Check out these offerings:

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Summer Camps

Start with a Book. Free; age 6 and up.
In addition to a summer science camp, this site offers a long list of themes, such as Art, Night Sky, and Weather Report, for kids to explore. For each theme, you get book suggestions (for all reading levels), discussion guides, hands-on activities, and related sites and apps. You’ll need to shell out for books if you can’t find them at the library.

PBS Parents. Free; age 3–9.
With an emphasis on summer reading, the PBS Parents’ site offers a variety of practical, step-by-step plans to incorporate books into the dog days of summer. In addition to the downloadable Summer Reading Chart and the “Book-Nik” guide to a book-themed picnic, you can use the Super Summer Checklist PDF to plan hands-on experiences.

DIY. Free and fee-based; age 7 and up.
This site offers dozens of skill-based activities (which it calls “challenges”) in a variety of categories, including Art, Business, and Engineering, that kids can do year-round. Every summer, DIY runs camps and shorter courses. Some of the camps have online counselors who interact with your kid. Sign up to get notified of the latest offerings.

Make: Online. Free, but materials cost extra; age 12 and up.
The folks behind the maker movement offer weekly camps based on themes such as Far Out Future and Flight. You get a PDF with daily activities that support the theme, such as making slime and designing and flying kites.

Made with Code from Google. Free; age 12 and up.
A wide range of projects, including making emojis, animating GIFs, and composing music, is designed to ignite a passion for coding in teen girls. (There’s no stopping boys from doing these projects, though.) The site offers inspiration stories from female tech mentors as well as ideas to make coding social, such as a coding party kit.

Structured Learning

JAM: Online Courses for Kids. Free for first 30 days; $25 per month (per kid) with discounts for yearly enrollment; age 8–16.
What can’t kids learn at this online school? There’s drawing, cooking, animation, music, and much more. Each course has a professional mentor and is broken down into easily manageable “quests” that kids can complete at their own pace.

Khan Academy. Free; age 6 and up.
While Khan Academy doesn’t offer specific camps, it provides meaningful, step-by-step exploration in a variety of topics, including math, science, and arts and humanities. Kids can sign up with a coach (a teacher, parent, or tutor) who can monitor their progress and suggest lessons. Kids also can earn badges by learning and teaching. The custom dashboard has a progress map that fills up as kids work their way through the skills.

Brain Chase. $79, extra for electives; age 7–14.
Created by two parents who were looking for a way to help their kids continue learning during summer, Brain Chase takes a creative approach to enrichment. It starts on June 19, 2017, and runs for six weeks; kids work on math, reading, and typing all while competing in a real-life treasure hunt for the chance to win a $10,000 scholarship.

Camp Wonderopolis. Free for campers; optional $25 instruction guide for parents; age 7 and up.
Sponsored by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), this online camp lets kids explore topics such as weather, food, and technology. Each topic includes lessons, outdoor activities, videos, and additional reading suggestions for all ages. The 2017 theme is Build Your Own Wonderocity, where families explore the wonders of construction and engineering in 42 lessons.

Connected Camps. $69-$99; age 8-15. For tech-curious kids, check out Connected Camps, which offers week-long, instructor-led, Minecraft-based camps including coding, game design, and engineering. There are also courses in Minecraft and the Scratch programming language just for girls.

TechRocket. Free for a course sampling; memberships: $19/year, $29/month; age 10 and up.
Launched by iDTechCamp (the popular — and pricey — computer day and overnight camps), TechRocket offers online instruction in coding, game design, and graphic design. Each camp offers a variety of levels and challenges as well as a dedicated instructor.

About the Author: Caroline Knorr

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.

 

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.

Article: Kids and Devices?  Great tips on how to get your kids off their device!

Article: Kids and Devices? Great tips on how to get your kids off their device!

Toddler_Device_article

Ever try to pry a tablet from sticky fingers? Check out these tips to avoid the tantrum.

“Just a sec,” say nine out of 10 parents answering an email when their kid asks them for something. If it’s hard for us to jump out of the digital world, just imagine you’re 3 and the lines between fantasy and reality are already blurred — then throw in a super-engaging, colorful, fun, immersive experience. Or you’re 5 and each episode of Mutt & Stuff on the Nick Jr. app is better than the last. Or you’re 8 and you’re almost finished building something amazing in Minecraft. Why would you ever want to stop?

This is why getting kids off their devices is so tough. And when threatening doesn’t work, and you discover the research that two-minute warnings aren’t the best option either, what can you do? Thankfully, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some new guidelines around screen use that ease some parental guilt, but you still need to get your kid off the iPad at some point. Aside from being a strong role model, try these tips to minimize conflict and find the balance we’re all seeking.

  • Have another activity lined up (bonus points for making it seem fun). For the youngest device users, transitions are hard — period.  Even if the next “to do” is a “must do” (such as eating lunch), tell your kid what’s coming next. You can rehearse the process: “When I say stop, it’s time for the iPad to go night-night. Let’s see how fast you can flip it shut! As soon as it’s asleep, we can sneak into the other room and paint.”
  • Use visual and sound cues to help kids keep track of time limits. For kids who don’t yet know how to tell time, try a timer that can help put them in charge of the process: “When the time is up, it’ll look and sound like this.”
  • Find apps with built-in timers. Video streamers like Cakey and Huvi throw parents a bone and have internal timers so the app stops on its own. Then it’s up to the parent to make sure kiddo doesn’t just jump into another app.
  • Tell kids to stop at a natural break, such as the end of an episode, level, or activity. It’s hard for kids (and adults!) to stop in the middle of something. Before your kid gets on a device, talk about what they want to do or play, what will be a good place to stop, and how long they think it’ll take. Set the limit together and hold to it, though a little wiggle room (a couple of minutes so they can finish) is fine.
  • Discuss consequences and follow through when kids test the limits. When all else fails, it’s important to have discussed consequences for when your kid won’t give it up. For little kids, the line can be something like, “If it’s too hard to turn off, the tablet has to go away for a whole day.” For older kids it’s more about keeping devices in a public space, setting expectations, and enforcing them. If they show you they can be partners in moderating and regulating themselves, there can be more flexibility.

About the author

Christine Elgersma works on learning and social media app reviews and parent talks as Senior Editor, Parent Education . Before coming to Common Sense, she helped cultivate and create ELA curriculum for a K-12 app, taught the youth of America as a high school teacher, a community college teacher, a tutor, and a special education instructional aide. Christine is also a writer, primarily of fiction and essays, and loves to read all manner of books from Stephen King to Anne Lamott. When she’s not putting on a spontaneous vaudeville show with her daughter, Christine loves to hike and listen to music, sometimes simultaneously.

 

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.

Article: Character and Kids in a Digital Media World

Article: Character and Kids in a Digital Media World

 

digital_character

Build Character Strengths with Quality Media

How to support kids’ character and life-skills development through media — and parenting. By Caroline Knorr

How to support kids’ character and life-skills development through media — and parenting.

Every parent wants to raise kids with strong character. Grateful, humble, compassionate, brave: We know these strengths lead to improved well-being, better relationships, and sound communities.

Still, figuring out which characteristics to teach, how to reinforce them, and even whose job it is to do it (parent, teacher, coach?) is a thorny issue. And when kids are spending several hours a day glued to a screen — possibly on a personal device with earbuds in — it can be difficult to find opportunities to reinforce character lessons. Here’s the good news: Media — from video games to TV shows to movies — can help teach character. But it doesn’t just happen. Parents have to make it happen by choosing quality media, focusing on character-building ideas, and talking about the messages.

You’re probably already doing some of this, by watching TV with your kid and asking why a character made certain choices; playing a video game and helping your kid learn to take turns and be a good sport; and discussing responsible online behavior.

You’re on the right track. The days of simply restricting kids’ media use for fear that it hinders character growth are over. With kids using media for everything from playtime to learning to creating to communicating, it’s essential that parents use these opportunities to strengthen kids’ social-emotional development.

Why It Matters

In today’s digital world, many parents worry about the loss of character as more kids spend time alone on a computer or communicating through a screen. But research shows that kids can and do learn from media — what matters is which messages they’re absorbing and how those messages get reinforced.

Whether it’s from a preschool show about sharing or a teen video game about war, lessons about character can positively affect kids’ behavior and self-esteem. Most importantly, parents who are involved in their kids’ media lives — parents who co-view, co-play, and talk about TV shows, movies, books, and games — reinforce their own values as well as the media’s pro-social messages.

Character-Trait and Life-Skills Media Advice by Age

As former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson put it, “All television is educational television. The question is, what is it teaching?” You can apply this question to all media. By choosing shows, movies, apps, games, and books geared toward your kid’s age and developmental stage, you can better support character lessons.

Tips for Parents of Little Kids
Tips for Parents of Big Kids
Tips for Parents of Tweens and Teens

Character Traits, Life Skills, and Media Picks That Support Them


Tips for Parents of Little Kids
Watch, play, read, and talk. Simply enjoying a show, a book, or a game together and discussing a character’s behavior and actions helps kids better understand the internal motivation behind character traits. At this age, kids will soak up whatever they see and hear, so look for media with positive role models, messages about sharing and being a good friend, and managing feelings. These tips can help:

Books, TV, Movies

  • Keep things simple. Stories with one main idea that’s supported by the action are most effective for preschoolers. Look for short TV shows that stick to pro-social messages. Little kids often think that it’s the threat of punishment that makes a protagonist behave a certain way. Help them understand that it’s important to do the right thing even when, for example, you won’t get caught.
  • Don’t expect young kids to understand the moral of the story. Folktales and fables are fun, but their messages don’t necessarily get through to preschoolers (especially when the characters aren’t human). No need to push it if the moral is lost on your kid.
  • Look for characters and situations your kid can relate to. Kids who see themselves in a protagonist are more likely to understand and copy their pro-social behavior. A show about the importance of honesty, for example, will go over better if your kid has something in common with the character — say, a new baby sister or a dislike of broccoli.

Interactive, Digital Media

  • Model digital citizenship. Put your phone away when you’re not using it — and explain that you don’t want your phone to get in the way of your time with your kids. When you go online, explain to your kids exactly what you’re doing. Tell them that you’re respectful of people you’re talking to and texting with. (Get more screen-time tips.)
  • Set limits around screen time. Establish rules about when kids can play with your phone to help develop self-control.

Tips for Parents of Big Kids
Help kids translate positive media messages to their own behavior. Co-viewing, co-playing, and modeling good digital citizenship continue to be important. Once kids can read, write, and go online independently, character lessons can extend to how you expect your kids to act in the online world. These tips can help:

Books, Movies, TV

  • Simple is still better. This age group still has some difficulty understanding character lessons in complex stories. They need to see the basic cause-and-effect sequence of how a character’s motives are connected to actions and consequences.
  • Fables can wait. Children are typically unable to extract lessons from fables until fourth grade. Younger children tend to retell specific parts of the story instead of absorbing a more general principle. Enjoy them if you want to — just don’t expect kids to learn the morality message.

Interactive, Digital Media

  • Teach digital citizenship. Explain your rules about responsible online behavior.
  • Choose cooperative games. Find games that depend on players working together to solve a problem.
  • Failing is OK. Look for apps that reward you for trying and trying again.
  • Think outside the box. Introduce games and apps that emphasize creativity and curiosity vs. those that are simply goal-oriented.

Tips for Parents of Tweens and Teens
At this age, kids can make clearer distinctions between right and wrong. As digital savvy increases, tweens and teens appreciate what they have — and the responsibility that they have to make the digital world a positive environment. These tips can help:

Books, Movies, TV

  • Seek out complexity. Tweens are emotionally and mentally mature enough to understand others’ perspectives and to engage in abstract reasoning. At this age, you can discuss how a character acts when he’s conflicted.
  • Stay involved. The ability to summarize the gist or main theme of a story develops late, often not until age 14. Tweens and teens still need parents to guide them through the intended moral takeaway.
  • Don’t be obvious. Tweens and teens often reject moralistic messages to protect their sense of freedom and/or reassert their independence. Offer titles in which there’s a moral dilemma and no clear-cut choice. When older kids interpret books, movies, or shows as agenda-less, absorbing, and relevant, they are most likely to really get the moral lessons they model. Instead of pointing out the lesson, ask them what they think and engage them in critical thinking.

Interactive, Digital Media

  • Discuss online ethics. Talk about the importance of staying true to yourself even in seemingly consequence-free situations. It’s easy to cheat or copy work, for example, but that damages your integrity.
  • Teach kids to be upstanders. Help them develop compassion and empathy by talking about the importance of standing up for people who are victimized online or in person.
  • Talk about anonymity. At this age, kids may not yet understand how their seemingly anonymous behavior can have a real effect on real people. Help them develop a sense of empathy with their online relationships.
  • Stress respectful communication. Kindness is only part of it. Explain how to comment constructively and contribute productively on social media.
  • Help them protect their and others’ privacy. Discuss what should remain private and what’s OK to put out there.
  • Put “likes” in perspective. It’s not necessarily a bad thing when kids compete for followers on Instagram or other social media. But help tweens and teens realize that their self-worth isn’t determined by how many likes they get — and that a little humility is a positive virtue.
  • Remind them of the value of their devices. However it works for you — whether it’s having your kid contribute money or chores or making them pay outright for downloads — it’s important for kids to develop gratitude by understanding that these things are a privilege.
  • Encourage your kid’s school to teach digital literacy. So much of what happens at school is mirrored in the online world. It benefits the entire community when kids learn to be responsible digital citizens.

Character Traits, Life Skills, and Media Picks That Support Them

Common Sense Media worked with researchers and educators to identify and define 11 key characteristics that embody life skills, moral choices, and personal virtues. We then mapped each trait to movies and TV shows so you can easily find shows and use our reviews to start conversations.

Communication
Listening attentively and appreciatively, expressing yourself clearly and sensitively, and honoring differences.
Movies That Promote Communication
TV That Promotes Communication

Compassion
Caring about others and behaving toward others with affection, generosity, and concern.
Movies That Inspire Compassion
TV That Inspires Compassion

Courage
Taking on challenges even when there’s risk. Speaking up for what’s right even if there’s opposition; acting on your convictions.
Movies That Inspire Courage
TV That Inspires Courage

Curiosity
Having a strong desire to learn or know something — a search for information for its own sake. Actively seeking out challenges and new experiences.
Movies That Inspire Curiosity
TV That Inspires Curiosity

Empathy
Understanding the feelings and perspective of another person; putting yourself “in their shoes.”
Movies That Inspire Empathy
TV That Inspires Empathy

Gratitude
Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen in your life and taking the time to express appreciation and return kindness.
Movies That Inspire Gratitude
TV That Inspires Gratitude

Humility
Not regarding yourself as more special or better than others.
Movies That Promote Humility
TV That Promotes Humility

Integrity
Speaking the truth. Acting in a sincere way. Treating people equally and taking responsibility for your feelings and actions.
Movies That Inspire Integrity
TV That Inspires Integrity

Perseverance
Persisting in a course of action in spite of obstacles. Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Movies That Promote Perseverance
TV That Promotes Perseverance

Self-Control
Being able to appropriately manage your thoughts, feelings, and impulses. Requires paying attention to your emotions and feelings.
Movies That Promote Self-Control
TV That Promotes Self-Control

Teamwork
Working respectfully and effectively with a group and doing your share.
Movies That Promote Teamwork
TV That Promotes Teamwork

About the Author: Caroline Knorr

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.

 

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.
Article: 5 ways to curb in-app purchases for kids on their device

Article: 5 ways to curb in-app purchases for kids on their device

Kids_IAP

Mystery charges on your credit card are usually bad news. But when it’s your own kid racking up fees on your iTunes account, it’s a lesson in frustration. Some kids don’t realize they’re spending actual money when an app asks them to pay to level up or get a better weapon. Or, maybe they do understand but can’t think through the consequences of not getting your permission.

The good news is that it’s not hard to prevent your kids from accumulating big bills with in-app purchases on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. These tips can help:

Restrict access. Use the iPhone’s Restrictions to simply turn off the ability to make in-app purchases. Go to Settings, then General, then Restrictions. Under Allow, choose Off for in-app purchases. Important: Restrictions requires a passcode to lock the settings. This is not the same code as the phone’s passcode lock. Don’t be tempted to use the same code for each, and don’t tell your kid your Restrictions passcode.

Require a passcode immediately. Unless you’re running a really old version of iOS (and if you are, it’s time for an update), you have the option either to require a passcode immediately for any in-app purchase or to allow a 15-minute grace period during which, after an initial in-app purchase, you can make purchases without reentering the code for the iTunes account. Require the passcode immediately through the Restrictions settings.

Use Family Sharing. Let’s say you want to allow your responsible kid to make purchases but not go wild. You can set up a family group and hand select apps to share to your kid’s device. If they want to buy apps, you can select Ask to Buy so that you can approve or deny purchase requests, even if the app is free.

Set expectations. Once the device’s settings are squared away, it’s time to establish some rules about in-app purchases. Decide whether you’re willing to pay for them and, if so, under what circumstances. Or say you’ll buy the game but won’t allow any extra charges. When your kid wants a new app, look at the number of in-app purchases available in a game (usually found on the app description page) before buying.

Choose apps without purchases. Sometimes you have to pay more for apps that don’t have in-app purchases. When it comes to apps for little kids, it’s usually worth it. Also, it may be cheaper over the long run to pay more initially, and you won’t wind up with extra charges you can’t account for.

About the author – Christine Elgersma

Christine Elgersma started as Senior Editor, Apps and Digital Learning in January, 2015. Before coming to Common Sense, she helped cultivate and create ELA curriculum for a K-12 app, taught the youth of America as a high school teacher, a community college teacher, a tutor, and a special education instructional aide. Christine is also a writer, primarily of fiction and essays, and loves to read all manner of books from Stephen King to Anne Lamott. When she’s not putting on a spontaneous vaudeville show with her daughter, Christine loves to hike and listen to music, sometimes simultaneously.

 

 

 

Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsensemedia.org.

 

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