Online Gaming Safety
If you don’t know much about your child’s video game systems or habits, now is the time to ask. Ask what she’s playing, and if she plays games online. Talk about how you will be monitoring her video game use and use the parental controls offered by the system manufacturer. Even if you aren’t very familiar with your child’s video gaming habits, you can still make sure that she stays safe.
Things to Watch For
- Addiction—MMOs are more difficult to quit than standard console games because kids work with others in a constantly evolving world that never ends. Video game addiction is real and growing; see Video Game Addiction for more information.
- Advertising—There are about 29 million kids between the ages of 8 and 14, and they have a combined purchasing power of $40 billion. This means that companies have a vested interest in selling to kids as well as entertaining them. Make sure kids have the knowledge they need to know when they’re being targeted by advertising. Read about kids and advertising.
- Online predators—Just like any online social environment, kids playing online games are at risk of being targeted by internet predators. Make sure to talk to your kids about what information is private and shouldn’t be shared online, and establish rules about online friends.
- Netiquette—Some kids spend more time making fun of others online than they do advancing the game. Make sure you talk to your kids about what to do if they see something inappropriate online, establish basic rules of netiquette, and enforce consequences for irresponsible internet use. Read about cyberbullying.
- Inappropriate content—There are games that contain fun, age-appropriate content for kids of all ages. But be sure to check the ratings or play games before your child does—many popular games contain excessive amounts of violence, disrespect, and sexually explicit content. Read about video game ratings.
- Sharing—Be aware that kids can share just about anything online, including videos, audio, and even games that they have developed themselves. These things are difficult to control for content, so be very clear about your expectations for what your child shares—and views—online.
The online gaming world is expanding rapidly, and new advances in technology mean new things to watch out for. Keep the lines of communication with your child open—even when she’s engrossed in a game—and be sure to encourage positive decision-making by continuing to teach your child positive values.
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• Limit game-playing time. Have clear rules about when it’s appropriate to play video games—and when it’s not.
• Check the age rating on the game’s box and becoming familiar with the game before you buy it. Consider renting the game first so that your child can try it.
• Keep video game consoles out of kids’ bedrooms. Otherwise, they’re tempted to play them at all hours.
• Pick non-lethal games that require the players to come up with strategies and make decisions in a game environment that is more complex than “punch, run, and kill.”
• Learn more about the parental controls for the type of gaming console that your child has.
Parental Controls• Read about parental controls for the Xbox.
• Read about parental controls for the PlayStation 3.
• Read about parental controls for the PlayStation Portable.
• Read about parental controls for the Nintendo Wii.
• Read about parental controls for the Nintendo DS, DSi, and DS Lite.