Things We Love: FamZoo & Common Sense Media

We just wanted to take a quick pause from the normal order of things, and call some attention to some things that really help us with parenting. These aren’t silver bullets, and they aren’t super specific, so we hope that no matter how you’re raising your children, they’ll be useful (or at least interesting) to you.


Managing allowance is kind of a tar pit. When we first started with our kids, we wanted to make sure they had a tangible sense of how much money they were getting and spending. They were pretty young at the time (3 and 5), so feeding coins into a jar worked really well. As they’ve grown, they’ve become more able to conceive of money in the abstract (just a number, rather than how full your jar is), and the amounts have become unwieldy – if you’re just getting $2 a week, counting out quarters is fine, but more than $5 is a different ballgame.

We saw FamZoo mentioned in a parenting book we read a few years back, and we immediately went and signed up. It’s kind of like being your kids’ employer and bank all in one – you can set allowances (including popular patterns like “age + N dollars per week”), have them split automatically (half to spending, half to savings), and the kids can even log in themselves to check their balances. Later on, they can graduate to having real debit cards, which draw from their spending accounts, and setting aside money to give to charity.

We simply cannot recommend FamZoo enough. The branding makes it look like it’s only for younger kids, but it’s grown with us all the way to 9 and 11, and we couldn’t see giving it up now. It costs $40 per year, but relieves all the tedium from giving out allowance, so it’s well worth it

Common Sense Media

It’s really hard to figure out what kind of media is appropriate for your kids. The movie rating system doesn’t help much here, because it’s way too granular – some PG movies I’d show to a 6-year-old, others I wouldn’t let my 11-year-old watch just yet. On top of this, there’s lots of media that looks fine at first glance, but is actually really creepy and disturbing. Even TV shows are sometimes tricky, since they might have some messaging that you don’t want being hammered into your kids’ heads.

screen-shot-2017-12-09-at-8-29-01-pm.pngCommon Sense Media is a lifesaver. The first thing you’ll notice when you look up a movie review there is that there’s an age rating right at the top. Need to know if the latest Star Wars film is okay for your 5-year-old? Look no further. There’s even community feedback, so in addition to the experts, you can hear what kids think is a good age to see a movie.

Screen Shot 2017-12-09 at 8.29.14 PM.pngWe don’t follow their age ratings exactly, but there’s so much other information that lets us make decisions for our specific children, like how much educational value there is, or violence, or language. If your kid is really sensitive to characters in peril (like Lucy is), this will help you decide if this is a good film for now, or maybe for a little later.

The biggest thing we’ve realized since using this tool is that we don’t have to take our kids to all the newest movies. There are plenty of good shows and films for them to see that are totally within their ability to enjoy, and we don’t have to rush them into content they’re not ready for. This is why, and it pains me to admit it, my kids haven’t seen all the Star Wars or Harry Potter films yet.

Common Sense Media is completely free, but we donate to them anyways. It’s a really valuable resource for thoughtful media consumption, and has helped us avoid some long nights with kids who can’t stop the nightmares.

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