Gaming can be a fun way to connect with one another, but it’s important that children understand possible risks as well as how to handle certain situations, like bullies.
ESRB, which assigns content ratings to video games and apps gives a breakdown of games and apps as follows:
Boxed: These come on discs or cartridges that are purchased online or from a store. These are played on consoles, handheld device, or PC.
Digital: These are downloaded to a gaming device. Most devices have their own web stores where games can be downloaded. Some are full length titles while others are more casual and short, like puzzle and word games.
Mobile: Smart phones and tablets let gamers download apps from their mobile stores linked to a credit or debit card, an e-wallet, or a cellular account. Games are the most popular category for apps. Like all games, apps can vary in age-appropriateness.
Subscriptions: These are where one creates an account that lets them play a game for a short time for a small fee. These services eliminate the need to physically own a game by streaming it right to a gaming device, like a console.
“Free-to-Play” and “Freemium”: These are usually funded by advertisements instead of subscriptions. “Freemiums” let you play a small portion for no price but then requires payment to have access to new content and features. Apps, browser games, and others will often use these methods.
Social Networking: Played from social networks, these encourage gamers to share updates with others. These often include opportunities to buy in-game items with money, rewards players for recruiting their friends, and may leverage user’s information (in their social network profile) to tailor advertisements to their interests.
Gaming Tips for Parents:
Keep Clean Machines: Before children begin playing, be sure that the computer being used has security suite. This includes: firewall, anti-spyware software, and antivirus software. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other threats.
Make Passwords Sentences: Be sure children have a password for all gaming accounts A good passcode is at least 12 characters long and are phrases that are easy to remember. On many sites, one can even use spaces!
Remain Positively Engaged: Let children know that they have someone to speak to when they are feeling threatened when playing. Try to play with them!
Check Ratings: Checking games’ ratings on packages, online, or on some apps, is a good place to begin in checking its appropriateness for children in the home. Many games that are rated by ESRB also have summaries for their ratings that say exactly what content parents should be aware of. You can even access ratings using ESRB’s free app.
Empower Children to Handle Problems: Make sure children know how to block or report bullies. Also tell them to keep records of conversations and let them know not to engage bullies. Adult’s can also notify the publisher of the game about offenders. One can check publisher’s TOS for instructions on how to file complaints about another player. One should be sure to include as much information and evidence as possible about a bully.
Protect Private Information: Make sure children do not give away their location, age, name or any other private information. Children should also use an avatar instead of pictures of themselves.
Protect your Identity: If your child is on a game that has voice chat, make sure that they are able to change their voice. If what they are playing does not have this ability, do not let them use the chat.