Article: Character and Kids in a Digital Media World

Article: Character and Kids in a Digital Media World

 

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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 sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. They have a variety of devices including an iPad, iPhone, and an iPod and is often found with a device! 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.
9 Great Gifts To Make Parenting Easier

9 Great Gifts To Make Parenting Easier

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As Mums we are always looking for the latest tech to make our jobs easier.  The tech gear we highlight below are some of our top picks to help our kids stay healthy, safe and charged while on the go or at home using their devices for homework or leisure.

Thermo Bluetooth Thermometer from Withings

baby-thermo-FThermo from Withings is a temporal artery thermometer that is fast, accurate and easy to use and it’s companion app is a great way to track a child’s temperature, symptoms and response to medication during the course of an illness. Ask any parent of a sick child – the last thing they want to do when a sick child finally falls asleep is to wake them up, but if they are running a fever monitoring their temperature is vital, so finding a way to check their temperature without waking them is important.  A great addition to any family’s medical cabinet.   Read our full review.  Available from Withings.com, Apple Stores for $99.95

InBody Push Stadiometer

pushInBody Push – Handheld Stadiometer from InBody Push is a handheld stadiometer which measures height using ultrasound via the push of a button.  The stadiometer and companion app will register and manage the heights of up to 20 people and plots measurements on a CDC growth chart.  The device is shaped in a triangular shape and is easily held in one hand allowing you to measure your child – or anyone else in a simple easy to manage one hand format.  Read our review Available from Amazon for US$149

Kolibree Intelligent Bluetooth™ Toothbrush

C40U0469 (4) (1)At first glance Kolibree looks like any other good quality electric toothbrush, but it is much more than that- it actually gets your kids wanting to brush!!  It is a sonic toothbrush, its charging base plugs into an electric outlet and the toothbrush charges when sitting on the base. It comes with 2 removable brush heads and additional heads are available to purchase. However, unlike a regular electric toothbrush Kolibree uses 3D motion sensors to monitor how you are brushing and give you feedback.  It has 2 fun apps that encourage kids to brush as well as they can- a pirate game and a Rabbids game.  Read our full review. Available from Kolibree.com and Amazon. Basic pack including Tooth brush, charging base, 2 heads and app is $149

Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link Air Purifier

If you are concerned about air quality in a child’s room or want to keep it at just the right temperature the Dyson Pure Hot+ Cool Link is just what you are looking for. Dyson is famous for its innovative engineering and the Hot+ Cool Link combines it signature iconic style and functionality. It has 3 functions- it heats, it cools and it purifies. The heating and cooling unit, like the Dyson cool fan, is bladeless so you never need to worry about a child accidentally getting their fingers caught.  It is also designed to automatically switch off if tipped over. Air pollution can be worse inside our homes than out, and young children, the elderly and those with allergies can be most affected by it. The Hot+Cool Link intelligently purifies the air to remove 99.97% of allergens and pollutants as small as 0.3 microns. It measures the air pollution levels inside your home and you can set it to automatically switch on as pollution levels rise. You can control it and receive notifications via a Dyson app on your SmartPhone.  Available from Dyson.com, Amazon and other retailers RRP $599

Road Rockstar 4 USB Port Car Charger

Troad-rockstarhe Road Rockstar from Belkin is definitely one of those products that make you think “why didn’t someone come up with this earlier!!” It is a great family friendly car charger that has not one or two, but four charging ports- two for the front seat and two for the back!. The charger plugs into a cigarette lighter socket in the front of the car and provides 2 USB ports for mum and dad in the front seats to charge their phones. A 6 foot long cable extends from here to a second charging device that is designed to fit in the pocket of a seat in the second row and provides enough power for the kids in the back seats to charge 2 iPads. Genius!! No more running out of power on long road trips! Available from Amazon RRP $39.99 currently $32.99 on Amazon

Starry Station – Touchscreen WiFi Router

 

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As a mom, I struggle with letting my older son have my iPad in his room unsupervised.  Thankfully, I recently discovered the Starry Station – and now I can control what content he can and can’t see as well as being able to turn off access to the internet with the touch of a button on the router or my iPhone.  Starry Station includes ScreenTime parental controls which let you block bad content (which you determine), filter certain sites (like YouTube) and apps as well as disable Wi-Fi access easily. I also like that you can set up routines which disable wi-fi at a specific time, give access to only certain apps/sites (perfect for homework!)  This makes my Friday night #devicefreedinner a snap, I simply touch a button and Friday night is now tech free night.  Setup for the Starry Station was a snap, it has great range in my home and I also like that I can monitor how well my wireless is working on the fly from my iPhone.  Another bonus – I can connect so many devices including multiple smartphones, tablets, Android devices, iPads, DVR, wireless printers, and even my Blu Ray Player without seeing any slowdown.   Available from Amazon for US$299.95

Weather + Bluetooth Temperature and Humidity Sensor

img_0594-2Oregon Scientific’s Weather+ sensor allows you to track temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure either indoors or outdoors, both in real time and historically via your smartphone, when in Bluetooth range.  Do you have a room or rooms in your house that you need to monitor the temperature and humidity in, or need to keep in a specific temperature or humidity range? Maybe a wine cellar, a nursery or even a greenhouse ? You can keep an eye on it via a home weather station but you need to be in the room to check the readings and you don’t get to see how it changes over time. Oregon Scientific’s new Weather + Advanced Bluetooth temperature and humidity sensor provides a solution that allows you to monitor temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure via your smartphone.  Read our full review. Available from Oregon Scientific for $29.99

 

ADVANCED SensorSafeTM Embrace DLX Infant Car Seat

ADVANCED SensorSafe™ Embrace DLX Infant Car Seat (Largo)

As a mom of two, I can tell you that when I had my second I was amazed at all the changes made in a few short years to car seats. This is the perfect gift or a Mum or Mum to be, as car seats expire and the technology is constantly changing!  I’ve tried a variety of reminder systems to ensure I never forget my kids in the car – including a shoe in the backseat or putting my purse back there.  Evenflo recently launched this car seat which includes a SensorSafe system designed for infants from 4-35 lbs  which chimes to remind you that your child is buckled into their car seat in your car.  That means, no matter how busy you might be, your child is never left behind inadvertently in a hot or cold car even if you do change your routine.  The car is always a place where my kids fall asleep and this seat would give me peace of mind to know that they were safe — and that I would always remember they were in the car. Available from Amazon and WalMart  for US $149 – $211.10 depending on color.

ETY•Kids® Earphones 

 

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Helping to keep my kids hearing safe while they are using their devices has always been important to me.  These headphones from Etymotic allow you to control earphone sensitivity which means that it’s no longer a battle of the DVD player being turned up too loud!  The sounds heard via the  ETY•Kids earphones are designed not to exceed safe levels, and kids can listen safely for up to four hours daily.  The headphones block background noise, provide high quality sound which means kids can hear the sounds and parents can have a conversation in the front seat without having to compete with a device for long drives. Read our full review, my son’s are four years old and still working great!  Available from Amazon for US $30.

 For additional gift ideas check out all our Holiday Gift Guides.

This post contains affiliate links, if you click on these The iMums may receive a small commission which helps to pay to run this site. Thank you for supporting us by using these links. Some items on this list have been received free of charge for review purposes.

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. They have a variety of devices including an iPad, iPhone, and an iPod and is often found with a device! 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.
News: SenCbuds: The Earphones That Pause For You back on indiegogo

News: SenCbuds: The Earphones That Pause For You back on indiegogo

sencbuds

 

 

SenCbuds: The Earphones That Pause For You

Meet SenCbuds, the first earphones that can automatically detect when to pause music! With the help of patent pending sensor technology, SenCbuds instantly know when they are taken out of your ear, and pause the media you are playing accordingly.
Patent Pending Smart Sense Technology
SenCbuds unique functionality is powered by motion-sensitive, patent pending Smart Sense Technology (SST) located inside the earbuds. SST allows SenCbuds to instantly pause music, podcasts or movies when taken out of the user’s ear, and to restart when they are put back in. This function is extremely useful during workouts, when working in an open office space, while travelling and in many other day-to-day situations.
Convenient Cable Management System
SenCbuds come with a handy management system to avoid tangled cables! The system also features buttons that can be used to control music and accept calls manually in case the earphone’s battery ran out.
Superior Sound Quality
SenCbuds are designed to provide the most excellent audio quality possible, and are therefore equipped with 9mm drivers, sensitivity to 98DB, an impedance of 16Ω and a frequency range of 5Hz to 25kHz.
Other Features
  • Built-in microphone
  • SenCbuds works with iOS and Android
  • The battery of SenCbuds lasts up to 17 days on one charge.
  • SenCbuds Plus additionally feature noise isolation through memory foam, a do-not-disturb light and a gold plated audio jack.
Pre-Orders

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. They have a variety of devices including an iPad, iPhone, and an iPod and is often found with a device! 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.
WoodTones Earbuds with Control Mic by Griffin Technology – Review

WoodTones Earbuds with Control Mic by Griffin Technology – Review

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The WoodTones Earbuds with Control Mic by Griffin Technology are a more organic-looking alternative to the Apple Earpods for for iPhone, Android or tablet. They feature real wood enclosures engraved with the Griffin logo and a choice of soft rubber tips. The earbuds have an inline mic/ controller to allow you to answer calls on your iPhone and change music tracks.

I’ve been testing these earbuds out for a couple of months and they have become my preferred everyday earbuds for listening to music and answering calls when out walking. I take my dog out for walks everyday and use these to keep up on phone calls whilst I walk, and to listen to music when I’m not on the phone.

They work very well for taking phone calls  – I can hear the other person clearly and get no complaints about call quality at the other end, if the music is playing when a call comes in it stops whilst I take the call and restarts afterwards. If you press and hold the mic button it will activate Siri.

The earbuds come with a hemp fiber drawstring carrying pouch, which is useful for storage, and 2 extra pairs of soft rubber tips in different sizes. I used the standard tips that came installed on the earbuds and find them comfortable and stay in place well in my ears.


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For listening to music the sound is crisp and clear with no crackles, obviously they don’t have the same depth of sound as a $200 over the ear headphone, but the sound quality is very good for the price point. With the earbuds properly fitted they do a good job of cutting out ambient noise. The in-line mic can be used to pause the music or change track, but there is no in-line volume control.

The WoodTones Earbuds are a great alternative to Apple Earpods – they are comfortable, look and sound good and make a great pair of everyday earbuds.

Available in Beech or Sapele Wood RRP $29.99 from GriffinTechnology.com, a version without inline mic/ control is also available for $19.99.

Technical Specifications:

  • 8 mm moving coil neodymium magnet drivers for powerful sound
  • In-line control mic works with Siri and many other voice control systems
  • Impedance: 16 ohms ± 15%
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB ± 3 dB
  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • 4 foot TPE-jacketed cable with gold-plated 1/8″ (3.5 mm) plug

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NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.

 

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).

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