Character Is Common Sense: Linking Media,Kids, and Character.

Have you ever wondered how media influences children and how their consumption correlates with his/her character?

In this week’s spotlight, we highlight Common Sense Media’s fascinating report: “Character is Common Sense: A Report on an Initiative Linking Media, Kids, and Character.

Common Sense Media is a brilliant resource for parents. The non-profit company rates movies, TV shows, books, and they also provide helpful articles/reports for the concerned parent(s).

“We offer the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based ratings and reviews. Our timely parenting advice supports families as they navigate the challenges and possibilities of raising kids in the digital age. “

Common Sense Media’s Vision:

  • Families taking charge of their digital choices.
  • Students thriving as learners, leaders, and citizens in the digital age.
  • Technology that works to support families and society.

Back in 2017, Common Sense Media conducted a report that describes insights gleaned from their work with focus groups, parents, kids, and teens. Their research included an extensive literature review of multiple academic fields, with a focus on their core expertise: kids and media.

Here’s the “Cliff Notes” to their report………

(If you would like to read the complete report, please visit their site.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Content, combined with family conversations, can support using high quality movies for character development.
  •  When parents help their children understand the value of the content, children learn to choose the good stuff.
  •  Parents want resources to help them proactively use media to support character development. Parents expressed a desire to use media to teach character lessons when faced with troubling situations where their child demonstrated a lapse of character in real life. 
  • Of Common Sense’s list of 11 character strengths and life skills, parents in our focus groups reported that the following strengths and life skills were the most important for them to teach their children: 1. Integrity 2. Communication 3. Gratitude 4. Self-Control 5) Empathy 6) Humility 7) Teamwork 8) Courage 9) Curiosity 10) Communication 11) Perseverance.


Age 2-5 

“When it comes to learning from media, parents (and other adult caregivers) can help children actively engage with the storytelling and support the learning.”

“Focusing on one main narrative, which is supported by the action, will be most effective for preschoolers (Mares & Acosta, 2008).”

Age 6-10 

“This age group will still have difficulty when too much secondary content (i.e., content that is not connected to the main storyline) is introduced between central elements of a plot.” 

“Children are typically unable to extract moral lessons from fables until they are 9 years old; younger children tend to retell specific parts of the story instead of deriving a more general principle (Goldman & Varnhagen, 1986; Lynch et al., 2008).”

Age 11 and above

“At this stage, major changes occur in children’s sociocognitive and information-processing capabilities. More specifically, their improved ability to take others’ perspectives and to reason on an abstract level improves.”

“The ability to fully summarize the gist or main theme of a story develops late — often not until age 14.”

“Tween and teen viewers often reject moralistic messages in order to protect their sense of freedom and/or reassert their independence.”

“For this age group, the most effective educational media should come in narrative rather than didactic formats.”

In today’s fast digital world, it’s scary to think our children have a computer at their fingertips to watch movies, TV shows, Youtube videos, and be active on social media. Not only do children have access to technology to consume content, but the real question is “How is media influencing and shaping their character?”

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, god-parents, family friends, and neighbors we should all take an active role in the lives of the children we have a sphere of influence on.

From your experience, what are your thoughts on how media influences children’s character? Do you have any advice?


2 thoughts on “Character Is Common Sense: Linking Media,Kids, and Character.

  1. Reading this reminded me of watching LORD OF THE RINGS for the first time with one of my nephews, who was maybe 5 at the time. With every new character that came on screen, he would ask, “Is he a good guy or a bad guy?” It was important for him to know. While I think 100% good in individuals or 100% bad does not usually fit reality (with perhaps some exceptions), having characters who are at least trying to do the right things is important for me as it is for my nephew.

    I’ve personally had mixed experiences with Common Sense Media’s reviews. On the positive side, I find they provide some helpful warnings about specific content in films that I might feel uncomfortable seeing (and definitely uncomfortable having my nieces and nephews see). One the lacking side, they often don’t seem to really capture the general impact of films for good or bad. Like the line in DEAD POET’S SOCIETY in which Robin Williams’ character bashes a poetry evaluation framework for losing sight of effect within analysis of individual elements (“I like Byron, I give him a 42, but I can’t dance to it”). At times it seems Common Sense Media similarly tries to generate a film’s evaluation score by such things as counting the number of times profanity is used rather than assessing overall do individuals tend to feel and be better for having seen it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Justin,

      Wow! That’s wonderful you the Lord of the Rings to your five year old nephew. I absolutely love J.R.R. Tolkien!

      In regards to Common Sense Media’s film reviews, I would have to agree with you in terms of their lack of depth. However, I do believe they’re an excellent resource for parents who are attempting to steer their children in the right direction when consuming media.


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