25 Cool Things Kids Can Learn Online (for Free!)

Links, videos, and instructions for really fun family projects.

With summer in full swing, lots of kids (and parents) are going online for ideas to keep busy. At Common Sense Media, we’re partial to activities that are a little, well, different. We’ve rounded up 25 unique things you and your kids can learn online (for free!) by a) watching a video, b) following instructions, or c) reading about a subject.

Note: Many videos include an advertisement at the beginning, and some websites might link off to other topics or sites that might not be appropriate for your kids. We suggest previewing or watching along with your kids.

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Back-to-School Questions Asked and Answered

Back-to-School Questions Asked and Answered – from commonsensemedia.org

Tips, guidance, and solutions for managing technology in school and home.
by Caroline Knorr | Aug. 16, 2012 | Educational issues

School seems to start earlier every year. One minute you’re packing for a week at the beach, the next you’re wondering whether your kid really needs a spiral-bound notebook for every single subject, including PE. This year, back to school will bring another big surprise: more technology — both in and out of the classroom — than ever before.

Navigating this territory will be a fresh challenge to all involved. Teachers and administrators want to use tech to reach out and relate to students, without disrupting class or skimping on lessons. Parents want to make sure that kids maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks. And kids? They mostly just want to have fun — and that often means hours spent online, texting friends, or playing games.

Added to the mix is a 24/7 pipeline that can be both a boon (homework help, research, current events) and a bust (hours-long texting marathons, Facebook drama, age-inappropriate content). Managing kids’ schedules to provide enough time for schoolwork and activities with a reasonable amount of screen time is a delicate balance.

Here are some of the top concerns we’ve heard from parents trying to figure it all out.

 Original article

Teens in Survey Paint Positive Picture of Social Media’s Effect On Their Lives

Teens in survey paint positive picture of social media’s effect on their lives

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP – Two-thirds of teen respondents in a survey released Tuesday said they text every day.

 

By , Published: June 26The Washington Post

For the vast majority of teens, using social-media sites and texting have become a part of daily life — but they still prefer communicating face to face, according to a survey released Tuesday.Overall, the teens who participated in the study painted a positive picture of the influence of social media on their relationships and self-image.

 
Media use by teens.

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Media use by teens.

 

More than half of these “digital natives” — the first generation to have grown up with Facebook — said these technologies have helped them keep in touch with friends, get to know other students at their schoolbetter or connect with those who share a common interest.One in five said using social-networking sites makes them feel more confident, popular and sympathetic to others.

The national study of more than 1,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media generally debunks the popular perception that using social-media sites is inherently harmful because of the dangers of isolation, bullying from peers, the release of private or personal information, or online predators.

However, the report did contain hints of what it called “Facebook fatigue,” with a significant number of teens saying they are “addicted” to devices (41 percent for cellphones), would like to unplug sometimes (43 percent) or would like go back to a time before Facebook was invented (36 percent).

“Many teens express an almost adult-like weariness with the pressures of the constant texting and posting involved in their modern lives,” the report stated.

The mixed feelings that teens have about digital communication shed new light on a population growing up immersed in online technology.

Research is scant on the behavioral and developmental effects of technology on youths.

Text messaging is still the favored application of teens for communicating. Two-thirds of respondents said they text every day, and half said they visit social-networking sites daily.

One-quarter of teens use at least two different types of social media a day.

Facebook, which is considering lowering the minimum age of its users, is the favored service among teens, with seven out of 10 people surveyed saying they have an account, compared with 6 percent for Twitter and 1 percent for Google+ and Myspace.

Half of teens said they think social networks have helped their friendships, while only 4 percent said the platforms have hurt their relationships.

Three out of 10 teens said social networks made them feel more outgoing, compared with 5 percent who said they felt more introverted.

Still, half of all respondents said real-life communication is the most fun and fruitful for their relationships.

The Full Report

Should Cell Phones Go to Camp?

Should Cell Phones Go to Camp?

by Regan McMahon | May. 30, 2012 |

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’s not so easy to break the habit.

A couple of summers ago, we sent our daughter to a two-week sleep-away surf camp in San Diego with a group of girls from her school. A few weeks before departure, the girls’ parents got together and someone brought up the camp’s no-cell-phone policy. One mom told how the previous year she snuck one into her daughter’s duffel bag anyway and the girl got busted and had her phone confiscated. But the woman bragged that she was going to do it again this year.

Apart from sending a dubious message that it’s OK to break the rules, the mom didn’t seem to understand the reasoning behind the rule.

As explained on the camp website, experience has shown that phone calls from home intensify homesickness: “One of the valued outcomes of camp is learning independence. Calls home would detract from that important goal. In rare circumstances, due to behavior or severe homesickness, our staff will contact you.” The statement adds that “cell phones cannot be with campers for security and privacy reasons.”

The camp also forbids bringing other electronics, such as MP3 players and electronic games, explaining, “Camp provides children a chance to live without electronic devices.”

But if the kids can unplug, why can’t we? Since we can all admit the cell phone is more for us than for them (kids aren’t the only ones with camp jitters), here are some tried and tested tips from recovering camp moms. You will get through it.

  • Remind yourself why your kid is going to camp. You’ve sent your son or daughter off for a new experience, and for a reason. Having your kids spend time with their fellow campers rather than texting friends back home will ensure a more valuable camp experience.
  • Dear Mom, connect the old fashioned way. You may miss hearing your kid’s voice, but nothing beats a letter from your sleep-away camper telling you about new friends and new experiences at camp. And for your kid, nothing beats a letter from home with news of familiar places and people, filled with expressions of love and “We miss you.” For parents of day campers, you can hear all about your kid’s exciting day when you’re together again — on the ride home or at the family dinner.
  • Seeing is believing. If you mainly want assurance that your kid’s having a good time, you may be able to see for yourself if your camp posts camper photos daily online. Our camp did, through a service called Bunk1.com. Ask if your camp offers a similar service, or suggest that they do.
  • If you’re on the fence, check the rule book. You’ll usually find cell phones on the “What Not to Bring” list. Abide by the rules, and if your kid has a problem and needs to get in touch, the camp will facilitate a phone call. You can always call the camp office or ask to speak to your kid’s counselor to ease your mind.

Original article