Parent Technology Resource: Common Sense Media

In the Pike School Tech Department we find that families are very interested in getting more information about media and technology for their kids related to using screens at home.  We often recommend the website Common Sense Media to Parents because we find it to be an excellent resource. With such a comprehensive website it can be hard to find the time to sift through to figure out exactly how it can be useful to your family.  To help with this, below are 3 easy ways that parents can get started using Common Sense Media immediately.

Apps, Movies and Television Reviews

Do you struggle to know which apps are right for your child and family? Common Sense Media’s App Reviews quickly show you the appropriate age, educational value, whether there is inappropriate content, reviews of what parents need to know and whether there are hidden in app purchases. My own kids know that I am going to check this before any app goes on our family iPad or if they want to watch a movie or new TV show and it has become a time saving resource for my family.  The same level of detail is provided for movie and television reviews.  In one place you can see information about the movie or TV show, with suggested talking points about your choice.

YouTube Reviews

YouTube Reviews on Common Sense Media provide a good way to get an idea of the quality and age appropriateness of some YouTube content.  It can be risky to just let your kids use YouTube without knowing exactly what they are watching since it is really easy to get sidetracked to inappropriate content and when the next video automatically plays parents can lose track of how long their kids have been using the app.   I have set up limits for how much time my children use YouTube with ScreenTime available in IOS 12 (<– Apple support page linked if you are looking for more information) and they use the YouTube Kids app (Ages 7 and up) which improves the likelihood that they will be watching kid-targeted videos.  YouTube’s curation process isn’t perfect so it is still recommended that you tune in to what your child is watching.  

Advice for Parents

Looking for general advice about certain topics to help you navigate issues related to parenting and technology? Common Sense Media has advice that is broken down by Age, Topic and more.  For example, this is where you might go if you are trying to decide what the right age is for a device in your family and you want to lay the groundwork for responsible use and manage the challenges and opportunities that come along with using a phone or iPad.  There are many more topics and guides that can be helpful to your family in the Advice for Parents section.

All of these suggestions allow you to take in the parenting information that you need, while encouraging conversations and connection within your family about difficult topics.  There is so much more available on Common Sense Media when you have more time to explore. If you are looking to stay connected with their timely blog posts you can subscribe to receive email updates on The Common Sense Media Blog or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  If you have any questions or find any interesting discoveries that you want to share please let the Tech Department know.

Digital Citizenship Week for Families

This week is Digital Citizenship week!  We hope that you will find the below resources useful as you encounter this topic at home with your children.  

The Common Sense Media Blog has a lot of information that can be helpful with Digital Citizenship discussions.  In honor of Digital Citizenship Week you may be interested in taking their Device Free Dinner Challenge with more Device Free Dinner Suggestions here.  

We also highly recommend creating a Family Media Plan with the American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Plan with Media Time Calculator so that everyone in the family is on the same page regarding expectations.

If you have more questions Upper School Head, Colleen Welsh and Aaron Hovel gave a talk about Raising Children in the Digital Age.  We also have a Parent Resource Page with more information on this blog.  In addition, please feel free to reach out to the Tech Department at any time.  


Digital Citizenship Week

This week is Digital Citizenship week!  To kick off our Tech Communications for the year, we are sharing resources that we hope you will find useful for your Digital Citizenship work in the classroom this year.  We request that a message go home after you cover any digital citizenship lessons to help families continue the conversation and reinforce topics at home.  Please reach out to the Tech Department if you need assistance with a message to parents or if you need help implementing anything this year.  

For Grades 1 – 5 BrainPop has free access to their Digital Citizenship Collection.  Their learning pathways tackle topics like Information Privacy, Media Literacy, and Digital Etiquette and students do activities where they can apply what they have learned and teachers can easily access understanding.  There is also an extensive list of Teacher Digital Citizenship Resources available.  

For Grades 3 – 5 Be Internet Awesome by Google helps kids become safe, confident explorers of the online world.  Their curriculum gives educators the tools and methods they need to teach digital safety fundamentals in the classroom and students apply their learning via Interland, a playful browser-based game that makes this topic interactive and fun.  Click here to access Teacher Training for this curriculum.

For Grades 6 – 9 the Applied Digital Skills by Google is a well developed free computer literacy course designed to prepare students for a growing number of jobs that require basic digital skills. With their Applied Digital Skills Curriculum learners explore units and apply skills in real world activities that practice topics like planning an event, creating an interactive guide and many more.  

For Grades 3 – 9, This Digital citizenship and social emotional learning article outlines how character strengths can be used in a positive way to navigate digital dilemmas.  Their Digital Citizenship & Social and Emotional Learning Teacher Guide contains a set of scenarios that students may face at some point in their lives and encourages conversation about character with the goal of developing strengths like humility and perseverance.  

Common Sense Media Ed Tech Reviews –  Their EdTech reviews and supporting resources can help you bring tech tools to your classroom via a collection of age appropriate resources curated by knowledgeable educators.  

Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Week Resources is a page developed for this week that you can explore, which has many useful resources that can help your students be, as they say, Dig-Cit Ready.  

Which Generation Have Smartphones Destroyed?

Originally published on Pike Perspectives

An Atlantic article titled Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? recently received a lot of attention on social media.  The piece states “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.” The author, with the help of a large study, traces these problems back to smartphone and social media.  Interestingly, an article on JSTOR Daily came out in response to The Atlantic article titled “Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying A Generation, But Not Of Kids”.  This article looks at the same data and draws some very different conclusions. The author states, “Fellow parents, it’s time for us to consider another possible explanation for why our kids are increasingly disengaged. It’s because we’ve disengaged ourselves; we’re too busy looking down at our screens to look up at our kids.”

As always, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two viewpoints. While I think it is important for children to spend less time on their devices and more time in non-screen activities, I don’t think this alone will lessen teen depression or anxiety.  It is also important for us as parents to take a good look at our smartphone and social media use. Adults need to model putting the phone down and engaging with our children and others around us in order to be good “digital mentors.”  We are living in an age where device moderation and boundaries are important for both generations.

I encourage you to read both articles and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Note: At Pike, we teach students Digital Citizenship in all grades where students learn to make safe, smart and ethical decisions online.  We also encourage students to be aware of what distracts them the most and provide a few strategy suggestions that can help with self-management.  If you have questions about parenting in the digital age Upper School Head, Colleen Welsh and I gave a talk last year with suggestions and we have a resource page on our All Things Tech Blog.

Tips for Handling Distraction at Home and at School

Let’s be honest, devices can be distracting for everyone, not just students.  Who among us hasn’t had trouble ignoring the buzz in your pocket during a conversation or a task that needs your focus.  The problem is that focus when learning is critical. Contrary to popular belief research has shown that it is not possible to multitask while learning new information.

So how do we deal with distractions in the classroom when students have devices. Common Sense Media has a great web page with lots of resources for teachers, students, and parents.

Have you mastered distractions in your classroom.  What techniques work well for you.  Do you see something on this website that you want to try?  Share them in the comments section.  


SeeSaw in the Upper School

Learn | Try | Amplify Week 6:

Last week you heard from the Lower and Middle School about the benefits of using SeeSaw with students.  This week we are sharing how SeeSaw is being used as an extension to some Upper School Math classrooms at Pike (4.5 minutes, see video above or click here to watch).  You won’t want to miss hearing Becky Miller’s 7th Grade Math students talking about what they like about using SeeSaw, and the video also features Nicole DeRosa’s teacher perspective.  If you would like help getting started with SeeSaw in the new year, please let the tech department know.

For some more SeeSaw Activity ideas for Grades 6 – 8 click here.

*Big thanks for your help 7th Graders, Nicole and Becky!

Seesaw @Pikeschool


For week 5 of our Learn | Try | Amplify initiative, we are sharing a couple of videos (4 minutes) about how 1st and 3rd grades are using Seesaw as a digital portfolio app to engage parents, teach digital citizenship, and encourage students to reflect on their learning. Seesaw is one of the best educational apps to come out in the last couple of years so, I encourage you to carve out some time to check it out. Are you using Seesaw? Share how you’re using it in the comment section.

1st Grade Seesaw Video

3rd Grade Seesaw Video

For more See Saw activity ideas in Grades K – 2 click here.

For more SeeSaw activity ideas in Grades 3 – 5 click here.

Parenting and Technology Post

Check out our recent Tech Dept. blog post via the Pike Perspectives blog.

by Jennifer Zacharis

The thoughtful integration of technology by teachers in all of our classrooms at Pike has enhanced our student’s ability to learn, connect, create and collaborate with technological ease.  This comes naturally to a generation who has always been surrounded by quickly evolving innovations.  Technology is so deeply woven into our students’ lives that they aren’t even aware of what life could be like without it.   The reality exists that as technology changes we constantly need to adjust as parents and educators.

The many benefits of a more connected classroom are paired with the fact that we must equip students with the confidence to navigate issues such as cyberbullying, privacy, safety and other potential digital conflicts.  In order to promote a positive digital culture, Pike has continued to integrate parts of Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum across the grades.  This program empowers students to think critically, behave safely and act responsibly online.  In addition, our students participate in many projects throughout the year that model good citizenship beyond this curriculum.  These projects create real learning opportunities in a safe environment where students can eventually become responsible independent learners.

Since most online use by students tends to happen at home the need also exists for parents and children to stay in conversation and keep working together for safe and responsible behavior online.  An ongoing dialog is necessary as your child grows and their digital life evolves.  To help families navigate issues related to parenting and technology we have listed many realities, issues and solutions on the parent section of our Tech Department website, All Things Tech.  Common Sense Media is an excellent resource for Parents with information about the powerful tools their kids are using and how to help their kids make good choices online.  Their Connecting Families Program has many resources for families to address important topics and prompts for meaningful conversations about making good decisions.  The Pike Library has hard copies of the excellent government publication Netcetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online which is also available as a dowloadable PDF.  Parents may also attend an upcoming session with Upper School Head, Colleen Welsh and Director of Technology Aaron Hovel on November 3 from 8:30 – 9:00 am about making sense of the digital world as a parent.

Extend the walls of your classroom with Global Projects

Collaborating with other classes around the world is a great learning experience for students.  The hardest part is finding projects. Look no further. is a great resource for finding and participating in PreK -6 global projects. There is a wide range of projects both in topic and length. Some projects are 1 day long others are longer term.


by Aaron Hovel – Originally published on our Pike Perspectives Blog

“Kids spend far more time interacting with media than they do at school or with their parents. The average 8 to 18 year old spends 7 ½ hours a day online, watching TV and movies, playing games, and listening to music. Kids no longer make a distinction between the “real” world and the “digital” one. It’s all one and the same to them.” (Common Sense Media)

Pike has always worked hard to teach students to be responsible citizens. Pike’s mission statement clearly states, “A Pike education is a journey that prepares students to be independent learners and responsible citizens.” Since students these days don’t make a distinction between digital life and non-digital life, it is important that we help teach them to be “responsible digital citizens.” To that end, Pike is reevaluating its digital citizenship curriculum. Digital citizenship includes staying safe online, privacy & security, communication, digital footprint, information literacy and copyright. All three divisions at Pike will be using Common Sense Media’s digital citizenship curriculum as a guide for more directly addressing these topics in the classroom.

So how can parents get involved? We know it is hard to keep up with each new online fad and communication tool. As soon as we think we have a handle on a new app or social network site the younger generation has moved on to the next one.  Common Sense Media is a valuable resource that can help parents navigate the media environment. They have a parent blog called Making Sense – Parenting, media, and everything in between that includes expert advice on media and raising responsible digital citizens. Going to see a movie?  Check the movie reviews on Common Sense Media’s site for appropriate age level and professionally written movie reviews. Often the reviews include information about particularly sensitive material and ideas on how to talk with your child about the movie. Common Sense Media also has app and game reviews with similar information. Looking for math apps or creativity apps? Commons Sense media has a list of recommended apps on a variety of topics which can be filtered by age. Finally, Common Sense Media has a great video with digital citizenship advice for parents. It includes things like “model good behavior,” “share your values,” and “establish limits.” These resources coupled with talking to your child will help them navigate the digital world wisely.

Pike is committed to helping students thrive in this digital world and we need your help to ensure that they use this powerful tool in a safe, responsible and respectful way.