This month´s Wishmakers: Common Sense Media
August 31, 2015  |  Written by Carlota Nelson

Every month, here at The Toy Blog, we select and interview people who work with and for children. People whose ideas, organizations and projects inspire and help make this world a better place. We call them our Wishmakers. Today, we are excited and very proud to publish our conversation with Jim Steyer, CEO and Founder of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization, which aims to give all children the opportunity to thrive. How? By informing parents and educators about the media their children consume and about the ever-increasing role of technology in the lives of young people.

The Toy Blog: Welcome to The Toy Blog and thank you for your time. How did you become inspired to create Common Sense Media?

Jim Steyer: I was inspired by my mother, a Brooklyn schoolteacher, who taught me the importance of making an impact on children.

The Toy Blog: Common Sense Media publishes unbiased, independent ratings and reviews of all types of media, including technology, games, books and films. How does the rating process work?

J.S.: Our age guidelines are based on developmental criteria from some of the nation’s leading authorities. Our vast editorial team is comprised of experts – journalists, media professionals, and parents - all of whom are passionate about media and Common Sense’s “sanity, not censorship” approach to helping families make informed decisions.

The Toy Blog: Could you briefly explain Common Sense Kids Action?

J.S.: In a nutshell, our mission is to make kids and education our nation’s top priority. To make this happen, we are focusing on getting Internet into every classroom, making sure kids’ information is protected online, ensuring that every child starts off with quality early education, and to improve social mobility by reducing the digital divide.

The Toy Blog: How can Spanish-speaking children, families and schools take part and enjoy Common Sense Media?

J.S.: Common Sense Media is proud to have recently launched a Spanish version of our site, which includes videos, articles, and our ratings and reviews, all in Spanish.


The Toy Blog: What are some of the free research-based classroom tools you provide for teachers and schools?

J.S.: Common Sense offers several research-based classroom tools under the umbrella of our Digital Citizenship curriculum. For grades 3-5, we offer Digital Passport, which is a suite of educational games and videos designed to teach kids about digital safety, respect, and community.

In addition, we offer Digital Compass for grades 6-9, which asks young people to think twice before posting something inappropriate online. Both of these programs are backed up by research in game design and child development.

Lastly, for high school students, we offer Digital Bytes – a website which demonstrates all the creative things one can do with the Internet.

Our edtech ratings and review site, Graphite, helps educators pick the best, safest, and most educational digital tools and helps seamlessly incorporate them into their lesson plans. We also offer a free, year-long program called Connecting Families, which aims to facilitate meaning conversations between parents and kids about how to make the best choices within their digital lives.

The Toy Blog:  What is your take on kids and the use of digital media today? How much is too much?

J.S.: This is the big parenting question these days, and there is no one right answer. Digital media can be an incredible resource for learning, and is fun too, which is important for kids. All families are different, so different screen time decisions will make sense for each family. What’s important is to choose quality, age-appropriate media and to make sure kids are still enjoying other, more traditional, activities like playing outside and reading paper books.

The Toy Blog:  Who were your Wishmakers when you were growing up and who are they today?

J.S.: My Wishmaker growing up was absolutely my mother. Her boundless energy and fiery passion to make an impact in underserved communities inspired me to do the work I do today. Common Sense Media is dedicated to that same mission – to be the voice for kids everywhere and give them the tools they need in order to succeed.

The Toy Blog: In your opinion, how important is free play for children?

J.S.: Free play is critically important in the development of children. Kids should be allowed to be bored, to use their imaginations to occupy themselves, and to play for the sake of playing. There are numerous studies to show the significant learning benefit from play, especially at a young age. Both digital and traditional playtime is important, not to mention fun! Every minute in a child’s life does not have to be strictly scheduled; they should be allowed to have fun and play.

We hope you´ve enjoyed our interview with Jim Steyer and feel encouraged to discover and learn more about Common Sense Media.

Photo Credits: Common Sense Media


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