News, information and advice about navigating online and other media for families.

Kids & Media

nbc's this is us

‘This Is Us’ Star Lonnie Chavis Expands His #FixYourHeart Message

When NBC’s “This Is Us” star Lonnie Chavis discovered that a few people trolling his Instagram account were making fun of the gap in his teeth, he clapped back. Not with retaliatory words; instead, the 10-year-old sent a message that prescribes self-reflection and self-acceptance as antidotes to eradicating a culture of bullying and low self-esteem. “I could get my gap fixed. Braces can fix this, but can you fix your...

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meditation for children

Mallika Chopra: Making Meditation Accessible for Children and Families

An increasing number of schools and studios throughout the country are introducing children to meditation and yoga to help them deal with stress and overstimulation. Mallika Chopra, mom, author and wellness expert, wants these coping tools to be accessible to all children – even outside a workshop or class. With the publication of her new book, she is well on her way to achieving this goal.   Written for 8- to...

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Los Angeles VR Rooms

Local VR Rooms Transport You to Other Worlds

If you could strap on a headset and be transported to a different time and place, would you? With virtual reality, or VR, you can. In reality, you’re just moving around in a pod (a room about 12 feet square) but the 360-degree multisensory digital experience feels more real than real itself. And the ever-evolving VR technology is light years ahead of traditional family games. Here’s a rundown on a...

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jake monaco

Jake Monaco: Composing Music for Kids and Cartoons

The next time your kids watch Amazon’s “The Stinky & Dirty Show,” Netflix’s “Dinotrux” or Warner Bros. Animation’s “Be Cool, Scooby- Doo!,” take note of the whimsical music that syncs perfectly with the characters and plots. Film composer Jake Monaco is the artist behind this music, and he has a knack for producing unique tunes from his signature collection of custom instruments, including a percussion table made from pots and...

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shark tank

L.A. Students Shine in Shark Tank and Math@Work Webisode

Dressed in their best, two teams of aspiring local student entrepreneurs recently marched onto ABC’s “Shark Tank” set to present their business plans to the “shark” panel.  Calm and poised, Lincoln High School ninth graders Crystal Reynaga and Angela Garcia pitched Find You, a GPS watch that tracks young runners and includes an app to help their parents keep tabs on them. And eighth graders Timothy Coleman and Mauro Palomo, who attend Hawthorne Math & Science Academy, delivered a pitch on how their website $tartup connects entrepreneurs and investors.  The four students fielded a series of...

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Down syndrome

Kid Podcast ‘Brains On!’ Explores Down Syndrome

What do your kids know about Down syndrome? How about your kids’ friends and classmates? A great, age-appropriate way for them to learn more is via the “Brains On!” podcast produced by American Public Media – with writing and reporting from L.A.’s own Sanden Totten, formerly a science reporter at public radio station KPCC. In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October, “Brains On!” devoted an episode to the...

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middle school students

Parenting Through Middle School Students’ Perfect Storm

New parents get all the sympathy. Everyone is ready to commiserate over the sleepless nights, dirty diapers and crush of responsibility that come with the birth of a child. Our babies, after all, need our 24/7 attention and care.  Parents of middle schoolers, on the other hand, don’t get much more than a grimace from those of us who have survived that stage in our kids’ lives. We roll our...

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stem in los angeles schools

Adding an M to STEM in Los Angeles Schools

Just who’s putting all this steam into STEM in Los Angeles Schools? Take a straw poll, and you’ll hear credit for the classroom technology boom assigned to a variety of individuals. Topping the list are the scores of ever-inventive teachers, principals and heads of school who are willing to experiment and generous parents and donors offering their time, expertise and funds. Finally, there are the students who – with their...

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kids using smartphones

Setting Limits on Kids’ Smartphone Use

Much fuss has been made over the debut in early September of the latest generation of iPhones. Despite the $999 price tag for the top-of-the-line iPhone X, the news no doubt has tweens and teens asking for an upgrade. But experts are finding evidence that excess smartphone use could be connected to depression and anxiety among teens and tweens – possibly because they are trading in-person relationships and interaction for...

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Raise Readers By Starting Your Own Book Club

Like many parents, I’m guilty of turning to digital babysitting when I need a break and the kids want some summer fun. Television or cell phone games become my go-to when I need 15 to 20 minutes of peace and quiet after a long day. I know it might not seem like good parenting, but sometimes when survival mode kicks in, a little help from the television or cell phone...

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Abbie Boudreau: On Raising News-Savvy Kids

As a kid, Abbie Boudreau was curious about everything. She wanted to grow up to be an astronaut and a pastry chef. Later, as a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, her inquisitiveness and desire to help others led her to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. The Emmy-Award winner went on to work at CNN and ABC News as an investigative correspondent and now covers feature...

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Geocaching With Kids for Outdoor Fun In L.A.

Armed with a modern-day treasure map (of the iPhone variety), my 4-year-old son and I beelined through the park, following the in-app compass to our destination. Ding! “You’re getting close!” the app encouraged. Our hearts were pounding as we arrived where X marked the spot. We frantically flipped over leaves, shuffled rocks and generally sleuthed around a bit, until … pay dirt! My son popped open a small Tupperware container...

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When the News Is Scary or Confusing

Editor's note: This is an update of a 2015 article which, sadly, is still quite relevant and timely. Television, radio, newspapers and social media bring us news of terrorist attacks and tragedy on a daily basis. And too often, as in the case of a shooting Monday (April 10, 2017) at North Park Elementary school in San Bernardino, the news is much closer to home. How can parents begin to...

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Why This Dad Is On Pokemon Go

Last year, Los Angeles TV producer Brant Pinvidic found himself equally baffled by two things. One was the exploding popularity of the smartphone game Pokemon Go, which in the summer of 2016 was played by millions of people, including his whole family. The other was how to find common ground with his 13-year-old daughter, who had become obsessed with catching its virtual characters to the point where he caught her...

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home learning activities for kids

Digital vs. Analog: At-Home Learning Activities for Kids

Technology gives parents more ways than ever to provide a rich and engaging home learning environment for their kids. But how much is too much? Is it better to go “old-school” with plenty of books, journals to fill, and hands-on activities? Or is it best to be future-focused and provide the latest tablet computer and learning programs? Staying Hands-On Patti Clark, vice president of product development at Lakeshore, advocates for...

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Free Music-Tech Classes for Girls Come to Pasadena

In 2011, Erin Barra, an associate professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, began a music revolution by teaching music technology classes to elementary and middle school girls across the country. Beats by Girlz has reached young women in New York, Boston, Minneapolis and San Francisco – and Barra is now bringing the program to Pasadena. “The creation of Beats by Girlz started back at a workshop the Lower...

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kids and media

Tara Sorensen: Creating Children’s Programming with a Mom’s Touch

One of Tara Sorensen’s favorite places to be is among books, children’s books in particular. “The Giving Tree” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” are a couple of her favorites. The L.A. mom of two and head of kids programming at Amazon Studios has always loved a good story with characters that leap off the page and into the imagination. It was her love of storytelling that led her into children’s television programming. Before joining Amazon, she was at National Geographic, where she was vice president...

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Parents Spend More Than Nine Hours a Day with Screen Media

A first-of-its-kind study released this month by Common Sense Media shows that parents spend more than nine hours (9:22) a day with screen media, the vast majority of that time being spent with personal media (7:43) and only slightly more than 90 minutes devoted to work media. The vast majority of these parents (78%) believe they are good media-use role models for their kids. Meanwhile, many parents are concerned about...

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divorce and parenting

When Your Ex Text Messages Too Much

Open communication between parents and children is always encouraged. For children whose parents are divorced, communication with parents should mimic how communication would operate if both parents were under the same roof. However, the non-custodial parent (aka the parent who does not have child custody at that given moment) should be careful not to abuse that open door. Often times I’ll hear complaints from the parent in custody that the...

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tech for kids

Anti-bullying App Saves Kids a Seat

Navigating the school cafeteria can be stressful. But for 16-year-old Natalie Hampton, who lives in Sherman Oaks and was verbally, physically and cyber bullied during middle school, lunch was one of the worst parts of the day. Being seen eating by herself didn’t help. “I felt vulnerable and worthless. I also think being excluded branded me as a target for bullying,” says Hampton. Her experience led her to create the...

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positive parenting

Finding Diversity in Children’s Books

Five Easy Ways to Find Inclusive Reads Your Kids Will Love “There were tons of brown kids just like me running around the neighborhood where I grew up in East L.A. in the mid-90s, but I never came across a single book about anyone who looked like me until high school,” says Julia Casas, youth services librarian for the Santa Monica Public Library’s Ocean Park Branch. When Casas, a Latina,...

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parenting having the talk

If Your Child Accidentally Sees Online Porn

If it hasn’t already, it’s going to happen. Your child will type an innocent word into an online search engine, log onto a gaming site or search for a favorite music video and stumble onto photos and video you – and often they – would rather they didn’t see. Tracy Levine Wallace wants you to think about that now. “Be one step ahead of this,” urges the L.A. mom and...

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A Play Date With littleBits

Play dates are always fun, but getting to play the super cool creative engineer on the Disney campus is especially fun! L.A. Parent joined littleBits last week at Disney’s Creative Campus for an exclusive play date to unleash our inner inventor. Ayah Bdeir, creator of littleBits, joined the kids and adults with her product development team for a hands-on exploration of the modular electronic circuit blocks that easily snap together...

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los angeles schools

A Peek Through the Portal

How online monitoring tools are impacting education and families Remember how your kids sometimes forgot to give you the Friday folder from school or pulled it out on Monday morning for a quick signature before you’d even looked at it? Or was that just my kid? Well, there’s a new Friday folder in town, the online student-parent portal, and families can access it any time they like. Do parents like...

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fun ideas for kids

Booki Vivat Turns Doodles Into Her Debut Book

Inspiration for a writer can come for almost anywhere. An overheard conversation. A story on the news. Two paths diverged in the woods. For Booki Vivat, it was a doodle she drew that said: “I live my life in a constant state of impending doom.” That drawing evolved, eventually, into Vivat’s delightful debut book “FRAZZLED: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom” (due out Sept. 27 from HarperCollins Children’s Books). The book...

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Dealing With Tragic News

Whether it’s happening in Nice, Dallas, Louisiana, Orlando, Brussels or Paris, it can sometimes feel like tragedy is also taking place right in the palm of your hand – or your child’s – via social media and smartphones. “It’s just a constant bombardment of input. I was shocked to hear that kids are getting news information from Instagram,” says Caroline Knorr, parenting editor of Common Sense Media, a California-based nonprofit...

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community news

Fresh Films Giving Teen Filmmakers a Shot at Stardom

For any teen who has ever dreamed of making a Hollywood production, this summer that dream can become a reality! Fresh Films is calling all teens (no experience required) to apply for its free summer program presented by SUBWAY® & Best Buy to work on sets here in Los Angeles and seven other major cities across the country to produce new episodes of a kids’ TV show! More than 200 teens will be...

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On the Record: What Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day

Every year when my husband asks, "What do you want for Mother's Day?" I always respond exactly the same way: “Amor, I don't need a Mother's Day gift. My kids are enough." But wait a minute, who am I kidding? I do want something! Why do I feel guilty admitting that I secretly want something for Mother’s Day? Is it because I feel like I should not get a gift...

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5 Ways To Shrink Your Child’s Digital Footprint

Yalda Uhls understands how much you want to Instagram those adorable photos of your toddler on the potty. Really, she does. And the mom of a 13-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy is happy that Instagram wasn’t around when her children were small. “I have the cutest picture of my daughter and her friend in the bathtub,” says Uhls, senior scientific researcher at The Children’s Digital Media Center@LA at UCLA....

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Eyeing Digital Device Safety

Nearly 64 percent of parents spend more than five hours a day looking at digital screens. And if we’d put down our smart phones and tablets long enough, we would notice that our kids are right behind us, with 65 percent connected two hours a day or more. Those figures are from a recent report by The Vision Council, a vision care industry group. The report, “Eyes Overexposed: The Digital...

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Finny’s Screen Time Initiative Gives Parents a Say

How to control and monitor screen time while preventing device addiction is a constant balancing act for parents. A Santa Monica-based app company is helping turn screen time into teachable moments and giving back at the same time. Finny recently released its parental engagement app with the goal of increasing awareness around device addiction making it easier for parents to control their child's smartphones, but also make their screen time better....

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A Plea for More Old-Fashioned Play

Happy New Year! Like many of you I also had a busy holiday season. This week, our kids were ready to go back to school, the house is slowly getting back to normal and routine is kicking in. If you are like our family, many gifts were given and received, especially anything that was device- or game-oriented. As a parent, educator and advocate for wellness and vitality, I have to...

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Mary McNamara: A Mom With a Critical Eye on TV

Mary McNamara took on her job as television critic at The Los Angeles Times in 2009. The mother of three – Danny Stayton, 17; Fiona Stayton, 15 and Darby Stayton, 9 – had been a features writer and editor at The Times for 18 years when she was offered the job. “My question was, ‘Can I work from home?’ And they said, ‘Oh yeah, you’ll have to.’ If I didn’t...

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Top Tech Tools for Families

The school year is half over and the holidays are here and I’m starting to feel the familiar overwhelm. The errands, events, work demands and to-dos seem to multiply mercilessly as I try to handle it all. And while over the years I’ve gotten better at greeting stress with a smile, it still can feel hard to breathe when you realize your life is wall-to-wall, and cloning has not yet...

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A Book Club Podcast Just For Tweens

For almost 10 years, Kitty Felde hosted “Talk of the City” on local public radio station KPCC. Part of the fun was attending the L.A. Times Festival of Books and meeting listeners at the KPCC table. Parents would bring their kids with them, and the kids would say they also listened to the station. Felde’s response: “You do not.” But the kids would always insist, “We have to. We’re in...

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Local Programs That Give Girls a Voice

Janel Pineda always knew she loved writing, but never thought about how that could impact her life. That changed when her uncle mailed her a newspaper about a Los Angeles writing program for young girls. At age 14, Pineda joined WriteGirl, where she attended writing workshops and worked closely with a mentor throughout high school. “I always wrote short stories and poems in my free time, but my school was...

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Detecting Body-Image Issues In Your Teen

What does your teen see when he or she looks in the mirror? “Body image” is how we describe what people believe about their outward appearance, how they feel about their bodies and how they sense and control their movements. Issues can occur when teens start showing signs of a negative body image, perceiving their bodies as something other than reality, convinced that their size or shape is a personal...

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Parenting Through Technology Transitions

These tips will help you take your child from total supervision to safe driving on the digital highway. Not that long ago, a child’s road to independence was pretty straightforward. At first, you took them everywhere with you. Then, maybe, you let them walk down the street to a trusted neighbor’s house. Eventually, they made the trek to school with a friend. Little by little, they made their way from...

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Navigating Video Game Ratings

You are at the multiplex with your family and your 13 year old wants to see an ?R-rated movie because “All the kids in my class have seen it and are talking about it. I’ll be left out if I don’t see it!” Do you buy your child a ticket and let them see it without you there to see it with them? Probably not. Now take this scenario and...

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Bridging the Digital Divide Between Kids and Grandparents

In the digital world where we are raising our children, it seems that toddlers, teens and everyone in between is obsessed with technology and media. As growing numbers of grandparents occupy stools at the Apple Store Genius Bar, desperate to keep up, others choose to remain offline. How, then, can parents bridge this technology gap between their parents and their children, to help preserve the grandparent-grandchild bond? Yalda T. Uhls,...

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Unplug For Successful Family Dinners

By Randi Goodman, LMFT When I was a child, I remember family dinners as a time to be with the family without interruptions. When the phone rang, my mother would scream, “Nobody answer that.” As a mother myself, I find it difficult to hold a conversation with my children without them being attached to their cell phones and other electronic devices. They are Tweeting, Facebooking, and looking at Instagram instead...

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