If we want better stories — better media — to inspire, teach and shape our kids, we need to funnel our spending on “better stories” — so more of those stories get made.
Someone Forgot to Mention THIS in the “How to” Parent Guides.
A few years ago our 7 year old came home from school wanting to watch The Hunger Games and play Halo.
This was a kid who hadn’t seen anything on a screen until he was 4 years old (Cars broke the seal) and now he not only knew about titles we expected to sidestep for a solid 8–10 years — he knew enough about them to know he wanted Mom and Dad to sanction the screen time.
A few weeks later, our 35 lb daughter announced she didn’t want to finish her pasta because she’d heard from the older boys it would be horrible to be ”fat” and not fit through doorways.
Again, my husband and I heed modern parenting advice and connect food to health and longevity vs. weight and appearance. Still, our 5-year-old somehow understood food could drive a body type which could be “bad” and judged by … boys(?!) about whose opinions she should care? Wow, we definitely thought we had a few more years to head that baggage off at the pass.
As for our youngest … well, he sat there wide eyed and ears open absorbing all of it — internalizing exponentially more “second-hand” media than we would have ever imagined with our first child (see aforementioned Cars at 4 years old). Although we both hail from high tech, media integrated careers, our parenting strategy had been low tech with tight content filters (confession: I once sharpie-d over the references to “hunters” by replacing them with “photographers” in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches an Egg because I didn’t see why we’d teach our 3-year-old about wild game poachers and killing animals in his formative years). But, as our kids came home asking about these titles or demonstrating media’s messaging impact, we understood that no matter what happens in our own homes, one of the greatest — if not the greatest — influence on our kids’ futures will be the kind of media their generation digests.
Who’s Telling Our Kids the Stories They Will Model?
For many reasons, media has co-opted — and looks to be continuing to co-opt at an increasing rate — our share of voice in shaping kids’ world views / mindsets.
- Kids Pre-K and older consume 7+ hours a day of digital content
- Our economy presumes 2 working parents which implies less in home, in person time for parents connecting with kids
- School days and after school activities take increasingly more time out of the day
- Parents’ working days and commute time grow
- More than half of parents balance their kids’ + their own parents’ care further eroding in person / connected time with kids
All of this adds up to parents having less time with kids and kids having more time on screens — with the content on those screens relatively unchecked.
What’s The Storyteller Telling Them?
As I reflected on this reality, the obvious question was: what kind of content were kids’ my kids’ ages digesting?
Mmm — not so inspiring.
Can we really wonder why we’re battling heartaches like increasing rates of eating disorders, in-school violence, visceral racism and sexual assault when we’re feeding our kids storylines that lay that groundwork so early in their formative years?
Most mass market kids’ content themes orient around solving problems via “us v. them” and “good guy / bad guy” frameworks — why not consensus building or community impact structures? Today’s content imagery still reflects gender extremes from body types* to cultural roles.
There Has to Be Better Stuff Out There.
I thought about my go-to parenting friends who I’d consult for the “best” kids’ books, the “right” movies, “safe” TV shows and “worth it” apps. We all have that friend who we text for the last-minute movie idea or email for the perfect summer reading list. For our family, my SmartFeed co-founder, Didi Engel, is that parent.
Didi and I brainstormed on how we found “good” media for our kids.
What resources did we review (many)? What ratings did we trust (few)? What filters could we use to match what we wanted (not enough)? What process did we have to find and share good stuff in batch (none)?
This realization lead us to search. Was there a way to find enough “better stuff” out there for kids to keep our family pipelines / screens full?
A quick, light weight database build yielded thousands of kids’ titles — movies, TV shows, apps and books — tagged with high quality ratings and all kinds of inspiring topics like “sportsmanship” and “kindness” as well as enriching elements such as “world history” and “robotics”.
The first time we ran our earliest multi-tagged database, I exhaled years in a colossal sigh of relief. Perusing hundreds of titles with multiple expert reviews and facile content tags, we generated a manageable list of meaningful titles for each of our kids. Even better, we could share that list with the parents and friends making up the community impacting our families.
If You Build It, They (Will?) Come.
My e-commerce ventures have all been enthusiast-based markets: arts & crafts, healthy living, wine. It’s hard to imagine a more “enthusiastic” market than parents wanting the best for their kids. Didi’s expertise spans family life-stage markets: young professionals, weddings, early parenting segments. As we began to digest the implication of personalized media playlists, we realized we had a scalable platform to help all families — repeatedly — discover, save, acquire and share media mapping to their own definition of “good”.
We began working with SmartFeed curators, children’s media experts and our data teams to aggregate and organize — loads of — media:
- Across multiple formats — movies, TV, apps and books (30,000 titles)
- Referencing leading editorial POVs — 10+
- Easily screened by robust filters — age (1–18+ years old), topics, awards, genres, content filters (300+)
- Quickly accessible via all devices — mobile, lap/desk top, TV — and in-home providers — Netflix, Xfinity, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play
- Enriched with family and media expert partnerships — Parent TV council, Positive Parents (15+)
We’re excited to see parents — and educators — use SmartFeed to find and share inspiring media for their kids and themselves.
Whether it’s by setting up customized profiles for kids (and parents) to get personalized feeds or by adopting 5 expert playlists in one visit via “1 click to save” features or slicing and dicing our database to get to the exact right title (on the provider already in home — at the lowest possible price) within seconds — we’re watching users come online — again and again — to get fantastic titles for their screens.
The daily grind of dealing with what to put on your family’s screens is arduous, time consuming and exasperating. Our run-ins with this mind-numbing, soul-crushing parenting chore everyone forgot to mention — drove us to build SmartFeed: The Family Media One Stop Shop.
We work to make families’ (and everyone’s) screen time — a time marked with a little less stress and a little more delight.
As we release new titles, expert lists and features — we’re excited to make family media a tool to positively shape our kids’ mindsets today — and for the years ahead as they become our future’s builders.
Media — The Stories We Tell Our Kids — And Ourselves — Matters.
SmartFeed makes it easy to put the power of media to work — positively — for you and the communities that matter — to you.
As you find great media for your family, please share it with us — and your community. As we all vote for better media with our views — and our spending — we signal content to creators to make more of it for our kids — and for their future.
*We thank Peggy Orenstein for examples and references we now use with our kids to raise their awareness around what messages media sends — and how it can impact their developing world views. Examples around gender messaging include questions like “Why do you think her eyes are bigger than her waist”? or “ How does she chase the bad guy in stilettos?” or “Do you think he can actually stand up when his shoulders are 4x width of his leg length?”