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.
The 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
Last 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:
- 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”).
- 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.
- 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: