Common Sense Media
|Founders||James P. Steyer, CEO|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, United States|
Founded by Jim Steyer in 2003, Common Sense Media reviews books, movies, TV shows, video games, apps, music, and websites and rates them in terms of age-appropriate educational content, positive messages/role models, violence, sex, and profanity, and more for parents making media choices for their kids. Common Sense Media has also developed a set of ratings that are intended to gauge the educational value of videos, games, and apps. The nonprofit's "Learning Ratings" attempt to assess different types of learning qualities within various forms of media. The new rating system was funded in part by SCEFDN's $10 million learning initiative program.
Donations from foundations and individuals and fees from media partners finance Common Sense Media. Today, the organization distributes its content to more than 100 million US homes via partnerships with a variety of traditional and online media companies. Common Sense Media is considered the nation’s largest membership organization dedicated to improving kids’ media lives.
In addition to its English language services, Common Sense Media also offers resources in Spanish.
After founding JP Kids, an educational media company for children, and Children Now, a national child advocacy and media group, Jim Steyer founded Common Sense Media in 2003. In an interview with the New York Times, Steyer said he intended to “create a huge constituency for parents and kids in the same way that Mothers Against Drunk Driving or the AARP has done. The group received $500,000 in seed money from a group of donors including Charles Schwab, George Roberts, and James Coulter.
To assess parents’ concern about their children’s media habits, Common Sense Media commissioned a poll, which found that “64 percent [of parents with children 2-17] believed that media products in general were inappropriate for their families. It said that 81 percent expressed concern that the media in general were encouraging violent or antisocial behavior in children.” The polling firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, said that “only one out of five interviewed ‘fully trusted'’ the separate industry-controlled ratings systems for music, movies, video games and television.”
Common Sense Media reviews thousands of movies, TV shows, music, video games, apps, web sites and books. Based on developmental criteria, the reviews provide guidance regarding each title’s age appropriateness, as well as a “content grid” that rates particular aspects of the title including educational value, violence, sex, gender messages and role models, and more. For each title, Common Sense Media indicates the age for which a title is either appropriate or most relevant and assigns an ON (age appropriate), PAUSE (somewhat edgy for the age), or OFF (not age appropriate) rating. An overall five-star quality rating is also included, as are discussion questions to help families talk about the media they consume. In addition to Common Sense Media's traditional rating system, they also offer a set of learning based ratings, which are designed to determine complex educational values.
Common Sense Media partners with a number of media companies that distribute the organization’s free content to more than 100 million homes in the United States. According to Common Sense Media’s website, the organization has content distribution contracts with Road Runner, TiVo, Yahoo!, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DIRECTV, NBC Universal, Netflix, Best Buy, Google, AOL/Huffington Post, Fandango, Trend Micro, Verizon Foundation, Nickelodeon, Bing, Cox Communications, Kaleidescape, AT&T, and NCM. The organization’s current rating system differs from the system used by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Entertainment Software Rating Board. It has received positive support from parents, and it has received support from President Barack Obama, who stated that its rating system favored "sanity, not censorship."
In 2009, CSM partnered with Harvard University and the organization Global Kids to organize a three-way communication with parents, teenagers, and educators about issues faced in the online world.
Common Sense has 2 free education programs for schools and other organizations to use with students and parents. The goal of these resources is to help young people learn how to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in today's ever-changing digital media world. More than 75,000 schools and over 158,000 educators around the world are using these resources.
The first product is a Parent Media and Technology Education Program that was launched in late 2008. The program includes a comprehensive library of resources, like tip sheets, workshop slides and script, videos, and discussion guides that educators can use to engage and educate parents about technology issues ranging from media violence and commercialism to cyberbullying and cellphone etiquette.
The second product, launched in 2009, is a K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum consisting of more than 60 lesson plans, student handouts, videos and interactive components that span three topic areas: Safety and Security, Digital Citizenship, and Research and Information Literacy. The curriculum was informed by research done by Howard Gardner's GoodPlay Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The resources were developed with support from many foundations, including the Sherwood, MacArthur, and Hewlett Foundations, which enables Common Sense to offer these products to educators for free.
CSM has also teamed with MTV's "A Thin Line" campaign, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, and Yahoo! Safely to conduct a series of town hall meetings for teenagers and parents to discuss online issues that they face; the first was held in Omaha, Nebraska on December 6, 2010, the second took place in Chicago on October 25, 2011. The third town hall meeting will be moderated by MTV News anchor Sway Calloway and is scheduled to take place on October 2 in New York City.
In 2012, CSM released its "Digital Passport," an online curriculum designed to teach children how to safely and responsibly navigate the Internet. The courses can be accessed for free by classroom teachers, who are then able to monitor their students' progress. Digital passport lessons are presented as games that reward progress with badges.
The organization also helped Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey and Texas Representative Joe Barton draft legislation that required websites aimed at children under 13 to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information. According to the Wall Street Journal, the group also wanted websites to feature an "eraser button" that would allow children and teens to delete information that they’ve posted online about themselves. The group also favored a ban on "behavioral marketing" to kids—ads targeted at children based on their online activities.
Violent video games
Common Sense Media played a major role in the passage of the 2005 California law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to minors. The organization submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court regarding the case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association). They published a survey, conducted by Zogby International, which asked 2100 parents whether or not they supported the "video game ban bill" – CA Law AB 1793; results showed that 72% of the respondents expressed support for the bill, and another 75% held negative views of the video game industry when it comes to how they protect kids from violent video games.
On November 1, 2007, Common Sense Media protested to the Federal Trade Commission about the ESRB's rating downgrade of a revised version of Manhunt 2 from "Adults Only" to "Mature". It protested on the basis that the revised version of the game, which was censored to prevent the game from remaining banned in both countries, was still banned in the UK via the ratings given by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). They also noted that players could still play a "leaked uncensored version" of Manhunt 2 on modded PlayStation 3, as Take-Two Interactive mentioned. The organization asked the FTC to launch a federal investigation into the ESRB rating process, citing the wide availability of the leaked version and the damage to children that the censored version still had.
Questioning whether CSM media had begun functioning as a lobbying group rather than advocacy group the Los Angeles Times called Common Sense Media "one of the most zealous voices when it comes to encouraging state legislation limiting the sale of ultra-violent games to minors and was "splitting hairs" regarding the difference between lobbying and advocacy in its efforts.
Media and child health
Common Sense Media participated in the FCC's Child Obesity Taskforce in 2007 and hosted Beyond Primetime, a panel discussion and conference on issues related to kids and media, featuring lead executives from the nation’s top media.
In 2008, Common Sense Media and The Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health released a white paper, which outlines the ways that media exposure can impact children's health. The paper evaluated 173 media-related studies from the past 28 years and concluded that "In 80% of the studies, greater media exposure is associated with negative health outcomes for children and adolescents."
"Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives"
Common Sense Media's study, titled "Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives", was released in June 2012. The study's findings were based on data from 1,030 surveys that were given to adolescents ages thirteen to seventeen. Among the teens surveyed, 49% reported that their preferred method of communication was talking in person, whereas 33% chose texting and 7% chose social media.
"Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America"
In October 2011, Common Sense Media published a study titled "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America", which was conducted to "understand the patterns of media use among young American children." Data for the study was derived from surveys taken by 1,384 parents of children ages zero to eight in May and June 2011. The study reported that over 50% of children under eight years of age have had regular access to a mobile device and that children under two "spend twice as much time watching TV and videos (53 minutes) as they do reading books (23 minutes)." The study also highlighted the influence of the digital divide on young children.
In October 2013, Common Sense Media published its new study, "Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, 2013". The 2013 data was based on a survey of 1,463 parents. The study reported that 38% of children under two had used a mobile device. The report also stated that seven out of ten children under age eight have used mobile devices.
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- "About Our Ratings". Common Sense Media. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
- "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". Common Sense Media. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- Rosen, Judith (February 13, 2010). "Common Sense Raises Issues at B&N". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- "About Ratings". Common Sense Media. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- "Digital Literacy Curriculum Available as Free iBooks Textbooks". EdNet Insight. 1 March 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
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- Noguchi, Sharon (August 27, 2012). "Training Tomorrow's Netizens". Silicon Valley Mercury News. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- Albanesius, Chloe (December 16, 2010). "Commerce Dept. Unveils Online Privacy Plan". PC Magazine. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
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- "Proposed Law Would Prohibit Web Collection of Data on Kids". The Wall Street Journal. December 23, 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
- Schwarzenegger, Arnold (July 19, 2010). "Brief of amicus curiae – Common Sense Media in Support Of Petitioners". Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- McElroy, Griffin (September 13, 2010). "Common Sense Media: 72 percent of parents support proposed Calif. violent game law". Joystiq. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- Steyer, James P. (November 1, 2007). Letter from Common Sense Media to Donald S. Clerk, Secretary, Federal Trade Commission (Report). Common Sense Media. http://www.ftc.gov/os/071101csmedia.pdf. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
- "Common Sense Commends Food and Beverage Industry for Positive Step Toward Responsible Marketing" (Press release). Common Sense Media. July 11, 2007. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
- "The Impact of Media on Child and Adolescent Health: Executive Summary of a Systematic Review". Common Sense Media. December 2008. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "Program for the Study of Media and Children". Common Sense Media. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- Heidi Stevens (July 3, 2012). "Unplugging from Facebook to enjoy the game of life". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives". Common Sense Media. June 26, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "Adolescents Assess the Impact of Social Media on Their Own Well-Being". The Maternal & Child Health Library at Georgetown University. July 13, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "Study: Teens still prefer communicating in person". Media Life Magazine. June 27, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America". Common Sense Media. October 25, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- Tiffany Kaiser (October 28, 2011). "Study: Over 50% of Children Under 8 Use Mobile Devices for Media Consumption". DailyTech. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- Suzanne Choney. "52 percent of kids under age 8 have access to mobile media". MSNBC News. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- "More than half of young children use digital media". eSchoolNews. October 25, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
- Tamar Lewin (28 October 2013). "New Milestone Emerges: Baby’s First iPhone App". New York Times. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
- Cecilia Kang (28 October 2013). "Survey: For young children, mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones now a mainstay". Washington Post. Retrieved 15 August 2014.