ESRB_app_1a Tornado

Tips and Settings for New Game Consoles

esrb family picThis holiday season, sales of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are over 2 million each. After December, many families will have a new gaming console. Experts are finding kids playing age-appropriate games can have social as well as cognitive benefits. The important piece is for parents to make sure kids are playing the right game and staying safe. To help parents this holiday season, the ESRB has come out with tips for families.

Before playing a game, parents should investigate the controls on their new consoles. Many consoles allow parents to restrict games based on their ESRB rating, as well as set the amount of time kids can play and who they can communicate with online. To set the limits that are right for your family, the ESRB offers instructions for the Xbox One/Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and 3, and the Wii U.

No setting is full proof. While searching the web for parental controls, I found just as many videos and website explaining how to bypass family settings. The best way to keep your kids safe (and make sure the parental controls are still in place) is to sit down and play a game with them.

The ESRB offers these 5 tips for choosing great games and staying safe online.

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Parents and Kids Gaming Together – Fingerprint releases more family games

gaming iconWhile looking up information about video games and kids, I notice most articles feature either a picture of a young kid glued to an iPad or a teen in a dark room staring at a screen. These images are not entirely accurate. According to a survey from the Entertainment Software Association, over half of parents polled play video games with their kids at least once a month and a third play once a week. In fact, 52% of parents say video games are a positive part of their child’s life.

I find the challenge is finding a game the entire family wants to play together. Last April, I spoke with Nancy MacIntyre  the CEO of Fingerprint about designing family games. Fingerprint’s philosophy is “to develop games that are fun for the whole family, but safe for kids.” Their game Flying Alphabetinis is proof that it is possible to create fun, safe and social games for both parents and kids. 

Now, Fingerprint in partnership with TigerFace Games has launched several more games for families. These new apps allow kids and parents to play as a team or go head-to-head using a single tablet. As an added bonus, these games are educational helping kids with math, science, reading and languages. 

Cosmic Reactor and Quick Tap are available now and the other two games will be out by the end of September. Right now, these games are for the iPad only. Us, Android users, will have to wait a little longer. If you are looking for a family game, check out these 4 new games by Fingerprint. Continue reading

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4 Tips on choosing the right app from the ESRB

 esrb sealLast week, Dona Fraser the Vice President of ESRB Privacy Certified explained the new COPPA rules. This week, we continue our conversation with some tips for how parents can help their kids choose the right apps.  

KidsPrivacy: Will the new COPPA rules include apps like Instagram or Vine that currently restricts to users to over 13?

 Dona Fraser: Many websites and apps use a minimum age in their terms of service. COPPA compliance, however, is required for any online service that is deemed to be “directed to children,” or even in some cases where an app is directed to an audience that is a mix of kids and adults. There are a series of criteria that determine whether an online service is directed to children, but it essentially boils down to whether or not children are the primary target audience.

KP: For these apps outside of COPPA, what tools & tips does the ESRB have to help families decide if an app is appropriate for their child?

DF: Here are four things parents should keep in mind about managing their kids’ apps:

  1.  Check the rating. Parents can check an app’s age rating within the storefront it is purchased (it is usually listed on its detail page) but they can also look up information about apps by using the ESRB website or our free mobile app. ESRB recently expanded its rating system to add information that goes beyond content. Now apps can also be assigned notices, called Interactive Elements, that indicate if a game shares the user’s location with other users (“Shares Location”), shares user-provided personal information with third parties (“Shares Info”), or if users can interact with other users or may be exposed to user-generated content (“Users Interact”).
  2.  Check the privacy policy. Just like websites, apps that collect information from users must have a privacy policy that explains what information is collected, how it’s used, and with whom it’s shared. Review these policies to make sure you are comfortable with the information that is collected. It is also worth noting that the mobile industry is currently exploring what are called “short form” privacy notices, which are much more reader-friendly versions of privacy notices that tell parents exactly what they need to know without all the legalese.
  3.  Set restrictions. Many devices like smartphones and tablets allow parents to restrict access to certain apps and features. For instance, you can block the child from downloading apps that are above a certain age rating or ones that allow the user to make purchases from within the app. Explore your device’s settings and set these restrictions based on what you feel is appropriate for your child.
  4. Be hands-on. No tool can ever replace being involved. Check out what apps your child is downloading and using, and talk to them about what the apps do and why they find them fun or useful. Apps are tools and tools can be used for good and bad. Making sure your child is supervised and educated about what is appropriate is critical.

For more information about the ESRB and their tools for parents check out: