This 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.
Check the rating – Parents can check a game’s ESRB rating on the packaging, or by downloading the ESRB’s free mobile app. In addition to a game’s rating, the ESRB also provides Rating Summaries that give parents a detailed description about a game’s content.
Consult the experts – Salespeople at video game stores and game review websites are great resources. Parents can learn more about a game’s content, which can help them decide whether it’s right for their kids. (Besides the ESRB site, I always check the Commonsense Media Game Reviews.)
Know their online “friends” – In addition to placing the game system or computer in a common area where kids’ usage can be monitored, parents should also pay attention to who their children might be interacting with via online gaming services. Some online gaming services give parents the ability to approve friend requests or set approved lists of friends their child can play with.
Discuss rules and limits – Parents should establish rules and limits for how long their kids can play games, as well as how they interact with others online. Children should know that they are not allowed to share personal information when completing profiles, purchasing items or interacting with others online.
Stop cyberbullies in their tracks – In addition to ensuring kids are using proper “netiquette” online, parents should also look out for warning signs that their child is being cyberbullied. Parents should encourage their children to let them know if they are being cyberbullied, and they can notify a game’s publisher or online service about the offending player. Parents can also block a player who is behaving inappropriately.
Besides these great ESRB tips, don’t forget a Platform for Good’s gaming safety card.