Common Sense Media: Giving Kids a Voice in a Digital Age

Jim Steyer, Founder and CEO, Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is the leading media technology organization for children in the United States. They do three fundamental things: they rate, they educate and they advocate, looking at things through one lens and one lens only, and that is what’s in the best interest of children. Here, we speak to Jim Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, and First Republic client. 

How does the Common Sense Media Consumer Information Platform Work? 

We have built a consumer information platform similar to a Consumer Reports guide for media and technology that is in over a hundred million homes in the United States. We rate movies, TV shows, videogames, websites, apps, books, and music; because we believe parents deserve relevant information that helps them make good media choices for their families.

How do you educate children about digital literacy?

Our kids are growing up in a 24/7 connected world and our schools are increasingly using technology for learning. The question is, how do we put this technology to good and appropriate use?  That’s really the mission of what we do.  We work with more than 75,000 schools across the Unites States to maximize the potential of technology for learning. This includes Graphite, our online resource for teachers to discover, use and share the best educational technology that has been rated and reviewed for learning potential, and our K – 12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum that is akin to Driver’s Ed for the Internet!  It helps teachers, parents and kids understand the immense possibilities, but also the potential perils posed by today's technology.

How did you get into this line of work?

I’ve been working with kids and education for at least 30 years.  When I grew up in New York City, my mom was a school teacher in Harlem. I graduated from high school a year early and I went to work with her.  I taught for a year in Harlem before I went to Stanford; so I’ve actually known that this is the kind of work I want to do my whole life.  I think of myself as a teacher and a child advocate, and I hope that people will understand that everything we do at Common Sense Media is because we believe that kids ought to be the top priority in this country and that they haven’t been over the past 20 or 30 years and we are paying a very large price as a society for that.

Do you have any advice for someone looking to start a non-profit organization? 

My advice for anybody who’s hoping to begin their own nonprofit is remember that you’re running a business. You can have the best idea, the best mission and the greatest passion, but at the end of the day you’re running a business. You have to run a bottom line, you have a P&L just like any business has and what really separates the nonprofits that make a difference is that they’ve built great teams of people and they’re well-run businesses. Also, learn how to raise money because if you don’t know how to raise money, no matter how great your idea is it’s going to be pretty hard to sustain it over a long period of time. Even though I’m a teacher, I’m also the CEO of a business and the financial responsibilities are really an important part of that.

The views of the authors of these articles do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.