We're pleased to feature Patricia Vance, President of ESRB, on video game safety for kids. Tell us how you keep your children safe while gaming!
Screens are everywhere these days, from TVs and tablets to mobile phones and laptops. And the Internet is constantly changing how we access information and entertainment as well as how we engage with one another. Like lots of new technologies these changes can open up new worlds of possibilities – some wonderful, and some less so, especially when it comes to kids. The same is true of video games, which continue to be a hugely popular form of entertainment for adults and kids alike but which are also changing with the times.
There are new types of games, new places to buy them, new ways to play them and new features to make them more fun and exciting. Following are tips for parents on how they can ensure their child’s experience with games is fun as well as safe and age-appropriate.
- There are plenty of choices that are OK for kids. There’s a misconception that most games are shoot ‘em ups that get so much attention. But games rated appropriate for children under 10 account for about two thirds of ratings assigned, and E-rated games are consistently among the best-selling games each year.
- Check the rating. Checking for a game’s ESRB rating – on game packages or online – is a great place to start to gauge its age-appropriateness. If you want more details, many games rated by ESRB also have rating summaries at ESRB.org that describe in detail exactly the type of content a parent would want to know about, including specific examples. You can even access them when you’re on the go using ESRB’s free mobile app.
- The control is in your hands. Parental control features allow parents to restrict games by ESRB rating as well as manage online access. In some cases they can even let you limit how much time per day or week your child can use the system. ESRB has parental control instruction guides and other helpful resources in the Resources for Parents section of our website.
- Be vigilant and monitor. Just as parents pay attention to the people their children interact with in the real world, that same vigilance is required when their children play or interact online. Certain console-based online gaming services provide parents with the ability to approve friend requests and set up approved lists of friends their child can play with and talk to.
- Kids need to protect their privacy. Because online-enabled games can allow players to communicate with one another, kids should know that they shouldn’t share personal information, even with people they believe they can trust. And that’s not limited to contact info and SS#s, either. Kids should know not to share details about their lives like where they go to school, where their parents work, or what their plans are for the weekend.
- You can play, too. And you should! Playing games is a fun way to gain a better understanding of the virtual worlds your children enjoy visiting so often. And you wouldn’t be alone. The average age of a gamer today is 37, and family game nights are becoming an increasingly popular pastime.
Remember, parental involvement is the best tool parents have in managing and monitoring online safety and game play. Stay involved, keep your computer or game system in a common area so you can keep an eye and ear on the action, and talk with your kids about what they’re playing and whom they’re playing with. If you’re looking for more tips, join the conversation during our Twitter Party on Thursday, February 23 at 9:00 pm EST. RSVP at http://on.fb.me/y2MISB and use Twitter hashtag #ESRB.
Patricia Vance is president of ESRB, is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). ESRB independently assigns computer and video game content ratings, enforces advertising guidelines, and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry. For more information, visit www.esrb.org, ESRB’s Facebook page or follow ESRB on Twitter (@OKtoPlay).
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