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Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 5/19/2016



Summer is approaching and it is time to prepare yourself and your kids for summer camp. When your kid’s summer camp tells you to just pack the essentials — swim suit, sunscreen, sleeping bag — a cell phone is usually not on the list. In fact, it’s generally on the “What Not to Bring” list. But for parents, staying in touch with our kids feels essential, and some find it not so easy to break the habit of checking in. Here are sometried and tested tips for parents with the jitters about sending their kids on their summer camp adventure.  

Ok, don’t laugh, but what about Virtual summer camp!  Before you say “over my dead body” these aren’t the solitary, sedentary experiences you fear.  Going to camp online 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 in this blog, you can mix and match activities to tailor the experience to your kids’ interests. For example, DIY, where there are 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.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 interesting offerings to supplement those days at home when you are at a loss for what to do to keep your kids engaged and entertained!

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense.


Coding (Social Studies+Spanish) = Amazing Learning for ALL!

As part of the third grade social studies curriculum, the girls learn about Central and South America and the people and animals that live in those countries. This year, the Third Grade Teachers worked with Spanish Teacher Kate McGinnis and STEM Teacher Caroline Windell as they combined their social studies, Spanish, and coding knowledge into one amazing online project.

They girls researched a specific rainforest animal and then wrote an interview between their animal and another character using common Spanish phrases such as ¿Dónde vives? and ¿Qué comes? They then used the block-based coding language in Scratch to animate their interviews, record their animations, and then save their animations as a stand-alone videos.

Here is a sample by Sophia:

As more projects like this one are successfully completed (and shared) – we look forward to seeing the robust learning and iterative design processes inherent in coding instruction – reaching students and faculty in a variety of subject areas.

Ladies Night @ the Tech Shop

A few weeks ago, six fabulous women from the Bay Area Independent School Network (BAISNet) met for Ladies Night at TechShop San Francisco. We worked with trained instructors as we welded and powder coated steel picture frames. The TechShop is a makerspace that offers classes designed to teach you how to use a specific tool or machine or complete a particular project.Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 8.33.50 AM

Next month, we’re designing and crafting our own rubber stamps on the laser cutter!

I am very much looking forward to bringing the exciting new skills that I am learning at these events to the girls at Hamlin in the Riveter Lab!

C. Windell

Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 5/12/2016



 The idea of pretending to be someone your not never gets old and kids are highly susceptible to “faking” identities. There is even a name for this in the online world — “catfishing”– and its common enough to have inspired a movie and a TV show,which I highly recommend watching together with your teen.  But creating a false persona isn’t the only bait-and-switch game out there. New apps let kids boost, create, or totally fabricate reality, tapping into the pressure kids feel to project a certain public image. Teens are especially vulnerable, since a lot of their social lives play out online, and they may be tempted to lie using tech.  

catfish-meaningKids can fake a GPS location, create a fake friends, or even buy followers and “likes.” Learn more about helping your kids use social media safely and responsibly, and how to help them think through the consequences of creating fake profilesHere’s a sampling of the new tools that take catfishing to a whole new level.

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense, 


The Riveter Lab …. a Community Resouce

When the chair people for the eighth grade dinner dance came to me asking if I could help them troubleshoot their idea for creating a gallery of student images – I immediately thought of some seventh grade students and our Riveter Lab tools which I knew would be up to the task.

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The problem was given to seventh grade students who took the challenge!  They added to the challenge some cardboard, their creativity, our laser cutter, and a little spray paint … and VOILA!  An beautiful effect – walking through gorgeous photos floating in the air – was created.

Of course the chairs in their kindness recognized the hard work …


Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 5/5/2016



 Today, Common Sense is proud to release a new research brief: Technology Addiction: Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance. The brief addresses many of the questions and concerns that parents, educators, and others have about about children’s use of media and technology. Are children addicted to their devices? And, even if children aren’t actually addicted, how should we understand unhealthy engagement with media? What are the human costs of this “always connected” lifestyle, especially for our children?  Along with the report, we’re releasing the results of a poll, Dealing with Devices: The Parent-Teen Dynamic which asks 1,240 teens and parents how they feel about the technology in their lives.

With the release of the report and the poll, Common Sense Media continues to assert itself as a leader in impactful and important research, which will have a long reach in its implications for parents, educators, policymakers, and others. This research brief was featured on the Today show this morning in an exclusive interview with Jim, and will continue to make news in the coming days. All report materials can be found on the Common Sense website.

Below are highlights from the poll:

  • Half of teens and over one-quarter of parents feel they are addicted to their mobile device

  • At least a few times a week, more than three-quarters of parents and 41% of teens feel the other gets distracted by their devices and doesn’t pay attention when they are trying to talk

  • 72% of teens and 48% of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social networking messages, and other notifications

  • Despite conflicts, most parents feel their teens’ use of mobile devices has made no difference or even helped their relationship.

And selected key findings from the white paper:

  • Internet addiction is potentially serious. There is no agreement on whether it’s a true addiction, how to measure it, or whether it’s something that is highly related to or even caused by another disorder, such as depression or ADHD. However, “Internet gaming disorder,” which involves excessive online gaming, may be included by the American Psychiatric Association in the next version of the DSM (the resource used to diagnose psychiatric disorders).

  • Multitasking may be harming our ability to stay focused. Multitasking is actually a misnomer; we may think we’re doing multiple things simultaneously, but we’re often rapidly shifting our attention between individual tasks. Research shows that multitasking can hurt your ability to get things done, slow you down, and make it harder to remember things that happened while you were multitasking.

  • Media and technology use is a source of friction for many families. Many children feel their parents check their devices too often, and a large number of parents struggle with limiting their children’s use of media and technology.

The report also reveals large gaps in our knowledge about technology addiction; to understand how media use affects kids as they grow, we need much better research.

Here’s what we suggest that you (and all families!) can do about it:

  • Encourage families to find balance by declaring tech-free zones and times, choosing age-appropriate, high-quality media and tech for kids, and connecting with kids and supporting learning by talking about the media they consume. Parents and kids alike need to understand the effects of multitasking, and parents can reinforce these lessons by being good role models.

  • If there is ever a question about whether a kid’s (or adult’s) media use is problematic, parents and educators can refer to our research or the Technology Addiction parent concern center where they will find dozens of advice articles, FAQs from parents, and other resources to identify the issue. And of course, we recommend families to seek expert help if needed

  • Establish ground-rules for homes, classrooms, cars, dinner tables, and offices by using our Family Media Agreement and Device Contract so that everyone can make the most out of their media and tech time.

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense.


Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 4/28/2016



You’re sitting down to dinner and  — buzz buzz! — your phone starts vibrating.  You’re tucking your kid into bed and – squawk, squawk! — an app begs to be played.  It never fails; technology can interrupt our most treasured family moments.

Common Sense’s latest blog post, 3 Places Families Should Make Phone Free, offers practical advice about how to help tackle this dilemma.  And, if you want to kick-start conversations with friends and family around social media and technology use, host a special Bytes & Bites Community Media Dinner.  Here’s a link to a comprehensive guide, co-created by Common Sense and The Family Dinner Project.  It lays out a full game plan to help you create an evening filled with adults and kids sharing perspectives, discussing hot topics, and learning more about each other’s experiences.

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense

Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 4/21/2016



Teens text, tweet, snap and post like crazy.  Half of all teens use social media every day and for many teens this means checking their Instagram and Snapchat feeds dozens (and often hundreds) of times a day. This social media-specific anxiety has a name: FOMO, also known as “fear of missing out.” While FOMO might sound like a silly acronym, it can have very un-silly consequences. Studies have found that the 24/7 nature of social media can lead to kids feeling like they need to check and respond to friends’ posts or messages constantly. As you can imagine, this can lead to poor sleep quality, anxiety, and even depression.

Please click here
 for our important post about how to help your tweens and teens deal with FOMO.  A few highlights include:

  • Just listen and don’t judge
  • Encourage your kid’s offline life and activities
  • Set limits
  • Shift the focus
  • Ask open-ended questions (our blog post offers many examples)

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense

Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 4/14/2016


Guess which media type kids and teens love most? Social Media? Video Games? Nope, neither of these.  It’s good old fashioned TV.   58% of Teens watch TV every day compared to 45% that use social media every day.  The difference from our old fashioned TV viewing is that our kids are watching on their phones (43%), tablets (17%), computers (31%) and an IPod Touch (9%).   But finding good shows can be challenging.  So why not share some of your old faves? If you think back over the past, oh, 50 years or so, you’re bound to come up with shows that affected you in some way. Maybe it was the amiable leadership of Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation or a groundbreaking cartoon like The SimpsonsWatching older shows gives your kids a new sense of pacing — and perspective. Here are 50 kid and teen-appropriate shows that shouldn’t be missed. Hopefully this list will help you and your kids bond while you enjoy and discuss.

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense!


Digital Citizenship Tip of the Week – 4/7/2016



With billions of dollars in global revenue, music-streaming services are the hottest thing since earbuds, but it’s hard to know which one is best for your kids and family.  There are several things to consider, including total cost, number of available songs, social features, and how kid-friendly the service is.  We broke down nine services, from the big hitters such as Apple Music to the radio players such as iHeartRadio. Keep in mind that these services regularly introduce new terms and features, so before you tune in check out their FAQs or the help section of the one you choose.  Look for the information here to help you choose which streaming service is best for your family, and all of the listed services are great for teens and up.  

noSpeaking of teens, raising consciousness about the importance of consent in sexual encounters is a significant issue, and many thought-provoking young adult novels address it through compelling characters and captivating stories that show what teen girls go through in the aftermath of an assault and how it affects their relationships with their families and peer groups.  Check out our list of awesome books to help teens understand the importance of “no means no.”

Have a great week and don’t forget to use Common Sense.