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
One 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: