ESRB celebrates 20 years of Rating Games

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Gaming has come a long way in 20 years. In the early 90s, the picture of a gamer was usually a male in the early 20s sitting alone in front of computer screen for hours. Today, 59% of Americans play video games. Most of them are not playing alone. Gaming is becoming a social activity with people playing online with friends and families. While playing games is a great way for families to connect, it can also be a source of conflict. Many of the most popular games such as Halo or Call of Duty are not for kids. Sometimes, trying to find a game that works for the entire family is a challenge. Thankfully, the ESRB is there to help families make the right choice.

esrb rating mobileThe ESRB, Entertainment Software Review Board, is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. They began rating games back in 1994. Over the last 20 years, ESRB ratings have appeared on nearly every computer or video game sold at retail in North America.

The ESRB is more than just ratings. On their website and mobile app, parents can read reviews and find out the reasons behind the rating. In our house, I turn to the ESRB and Common Sense Media, when I have questions about a game. What I love is before my kids ask to play a game they check these sites as well.

Over the last few years, I have talked with Dona Fraser,Vice President of ESRB Privacy Certified, several times about protecting kids privacy while playing games as well as how to choose the best games for your family. She always has lots of great advice for parents. To celebrate ESRB’s 20th Anniversary, I have pinned some articles about games and kids.

Finally, the ESRB asked me to be a ESRB Parent Ambassador. I am excited to be a part of an amazing group of parent bloggers. Below is the list of the Ambassdors. (Thank you techsavvymama  for the list!) Please check out their blogs for more information on choosing and playing games safely.

ESRB PARENT AMBASSADORS

Monica Vila, The Online Mom

Mary Heston, Mrs. Video Games

Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mamas

Sarah Kimmel, Tech 4 Mommies

Tina Case, Parent Grapevine

Ana Picazo, Bongga Mom

Eric & Camila, Geek Junior

Anne Livingston, Kids Privacy

Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

Beth Blecherman, TechMamas

Kimberly Kauer, Silicon Valley Mamas

Kris Cain, Little Tech Girl

Lori Cunningham, Well Connected Mom

Kathleen Bailey, Gaggle of Gamers

Dont’ Miss an Opportunity to Talk about Security

CloudOne of the best ways to reach teens is to share with them a real world example. When talking to my kids I use a lot of stories from the news. For example when talking about digital reputation, I showed them “My Embarrassing Photo went Viral.” This weekend, we talked about the celebrity hacking scandal and what kids can do to keep their devices and accounts secure.

Last week, explicit photographs of 100 female celebrities were leaked online. These photographs came from a group of hackers who collected and traded nude pictures online. How they attained these pictures was by breaking into the celebrity’s Apple iCloud account. Reportedly, these hackers were able to access these personal accounts repeatedly and download pictures.

How did the hackers break in? According to Apple, “celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.” In this case, hackers gained as much data as possible from public social media accounts and used it to find emails, guess passwords and security questions.

Most of these celebrities were probably unaware their pictures were even stored on iCloud. iCloud is a backup system which automatically saves digital photos, calendars etc. When someone takes a picture with their mobile phone it is automatically uploaded and stored in their iCloud account. Even if they deleted it off their phone, it could still be in iCloud. The benefit to an automatic backup is if someone loses their phone, they would not lose everything.

You can turn off these automatic backups. Without the automatic backup, if they lose their phone and haven’t downloaded their pictures, they could lose all their digital photos. I know many teens who have lost their phone or accidentally broken it. Given the likelihood of something happening to their phone, a better alternative may be to increase security.

Parents should share with their kids how to  improve security on their end by:

  • Setting a Strong Password – An easy password is like closing the door without locking it. Teens and kids should always use strong passwords for their accounts and devices. Never use common passwords like “password” or “1234”. Choose passwords that are hard to guess with both letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Choosing unique passwords – Once you have that strong password do not use it for every account. If someone happens to guess or sees your password they will now have access to all your accounts. Every account should have a unique password
  • Turning on 2 factor identification – Once this feature is turned on, a person trying to access an account has to enter a password plus a code before they can login to an iCloud or Google Account. This unique code is sent to a trusted device chosen in advance by the user. Some popular apps, such as facebook, twitter and tumblr  also offer 2 factor security.
  • Watching the oversharing – Keep answers to security questions off social media or don’t use real answers to your security questions. Let’s say your favorite singer is Taylor Swift, the answer to the security question “who is your favorite singer” could be Kanye West.

Finally, it is not bad idea to remind kids there is no such thing as a private digital photo. Even with apps like Snapchat, a photo doesn’t truly disappear. Nothing is 100% private in the digital world.

For more information:

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Back to School: 5 tips for getting your digital house in order

calendarI am not ready!  As you can see from my lack of posting I have enjoyed my summer. Although I have appreciated these quiet, relaxing summer days, I have dug a bit of hole for myself. This past week has been a mad scramble to turn in forms, dig through school supply bins and brave a trip to the mall. I am not only playing catch up in the real world, I have been a bit neglectful in the digital world as well. If you are like me and enjoyed summer perhaps a little too much, here a few tips for getting your digital house in order.


Create  or Update Family Media Rules/Device Contracts

One of the best digital parenting tools is to create a family media agreement and/or a device contract depending on the age of your child. If you have one already, now is the perfect time to review it. These contracts provide an opportunity for parents and kids to talk about expectations and values around online behavior.

Check in

After updating their contract, take a tour. Depending on your family’s contract, they can show you around or you can check it out yourself.  Either way, it is important that they are beside you so you can ask questions. This is not about getting them in trouble but creating an opportunity to guide them and talk about sharing smart and staying safe online.

Set new passwords

Parents should talk with kids and teens about the importance of setting and periodically changing passwords on their apps and devices. Kids and teens should not share passwords but some do. As the move on to a new grade, friendships may ebb and flow. So, the rule is new grade – new password.

Review Privacy Settings

Most kids are looking to share with their friends and classmates online not the entire world. Most apps have some privacy protections. They should make sure their privacy settings match their perception and when at all possible set their posts and profiles to private.

Update those apps

Kids should not ignore those updates for apps or their operating system on their devices. Many of these updates contain important security patches that will protect their device from viruses. While updating, remind them that malicious applications are often published outside of trusted app stores so kids should only download apps from legitimate sources.


For more back to school tips, check out…

Building a Digital Dialogue and Relationship with Our Kids – by a Platform for Good
Back-To-School Online Safety Tips for Families – by CSID
Family Tip Sheets – by CommonSense Media