ESRB_app_1a Tornado

GooglePlay makes it easier to evaluate apps

ESRB_app_1a TornadoThese hot and hazy days seem to bring out the devices. In the afternoon, my worn out child plops himself in front of the fan, grabs his tablet and starts trolling for new games. Before downloading a new app, he has to ask me to enter a pincode. Most of the time, I have heard of the app and I can make a quick decision but sometimes he comes up with some stumpers. Before downloading the mystery app, we look up the rating and reviews.

I have to admit I have always found GooglePlay ratings confusing. What is “medium maturity”? The term itself is vague and after reading the description, it still is not easy to determine exactly what age group this geared toward. With GooglePlay, Apple and video games all having different ratings systems, it is not easy to figure out if “Medium Maturity” is like 17+ or “T”?

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Ask KidsPrivacy: How can I turn off chat on Clash of Clans

talking digital logoKids love online games and many games allow players to message one another. In both, Trivia Crack and Clash of Clans, kids can send messages back and forth just like texting. Recently, I received a question about turning this feature off in Clash of Clans. On most games, players cannot turn off messaging but some allow players to hide chat, block players and report inappropriate messages.


Q: How can I disable chat on clash of clans?

clash clans more chatA: The short answer is you cannot. The chat window is initially closed and off to the left of the screen. When your child is playing Clash of Clans, they can open the chat window and chat with any player on global chat or just with their clan on Clan Chat. Global Chat and Clan Chat are different. Every player can access Global Chat and it is moderated. Here, comments are filtered to remove offensive language and they can report or mute players who post inappropriate messages.clash clans report player

In Clan Chat, it is up to the clan leaders whether the chat is moderated or has any restrictions. Clash of Clans is for players over 13 and adults do play this game. Depending on the clan, kids can expect to see swearing and some trash talking among clan members. Some clans do have rules of conduct and will kick members out who violate them. These clans usually require approval before a player can join.

To eliminate clan chat, players can choose not to join a clan. Without a clan, they can still play but will be unable to join forces with other players to launch clan wars and share resources.  Another alternative is to form their own clan and play with friends. Remember, friends can also share inappropriate messages. If they are playing with friends, parents should talk to them about setting ground rules for messaging each other.

clash of clan chat 3

 

 

esrb setting controls

Game Console or Tablet on your Child’s Holiday List

How to make a new device kid friendly

christmas presentThis holiday, many kids will discover elves have expanded their toy making enterprise to include all sorts of electronics. In our house, my youngest has high hopes that his first device is under the tree. Honestly, I am excited to give him his first electronic present but I am also a bit uneasy. The internet is a big place. I want him to have freedom to explore but I also want to keep him out of adult areas. Thankfully, setting up these devices to make them kid friendly is becoming easier.

If a new game console or tablet is on your child’s holiday list, I have compiled a list of resources for how to set up parental controls on these devices. These controls are important, especially for young kids. The internet is an all age’s venue and if a child is not ready for an R rated movie, they are not ready for unlimited access to the world wide web. However, controls alone will not teach kids digital life skills. After setting controls, take some time to slip in an online safety PSA or create a device contract. If you are feeling a bit unease navigating the digital world, you may want to include Talking Digital: Tips and Scripts for Parenting in the Digital World on your holiday list.

PARENTAL CONTROLS

GAME CONSOLES

For setting controls on game consoles, ESRB is a one-stop shop. Here, parents will find information on how to set parental controls for many popular consoles. If you are a visual learner, the ESRB also has a video series on YouTube that walks you through how to  set parental controls on the Xbox OnePlayStation 4, and WiiU. One of the best ways to teach kids about playing responsibly is to play together. To find age appropriate games for the whole family, check out CommonSenseMedia and the ESRB for ratings and reviews.

TABLETS

For tablets, parental controls vary widely even within a family of devices. Below are links to how to set up parental controls for some popular tablets.

iPad

Parents should set restrictions on the iPad itself and on the iTunes account. First, parents can go to “Settings” then “General” to set limits on the device. Here, parents will see a list of features and apps they can turn on or off. For example, parents can turn off Safari to eliminate web searching. If you want to allow some internet, parents can also activate safe search within Safari.  BeWebSmart has an excellent article on how to set up safe search for kids. Second, parents should also set restrictions on their iTunes account to limit inapp purchases. Parents can do this by requiring a passcode for every purchase.

If the latest iPad with IOS 8 is on your holiday list, parents can set up family sharing on their apple devices. Family sharing lets family members access each other’s books, music and apps and allows parents to set limits on what children can buy and download. Family sharing is another great tool but does not replace setting up parental controls on individual devices.

Amazon

Amazon Kindle Fire allows parents to set parental controls using Amazon FreeTime. The Kindle FreeTime app lets parents choose which books, videos, and apps a child has access to. The FreeTime app is not only for content. Parents can also set limits on screen time and set educational goals such as 30 minutes of reading a day. With a new Kindle Fire, parents receive Kindle FreeTime Unlimited free for a year. This is basically prime for kids. Kids have access to free books, games and shows based on their age.

Android Tablets (Samsung, Nexus etc.)

The parental controls available for these devices depends on the manufacturer. Some controls are more robust than others. Given this variability, parents may want to go with a free app designed to make a tablet kid friendly. Tom’s Guide reviews many popular parental controls apps. If you want to play with the controls available on the device, GeekSquad walks parents through how to make an android tablet kid friendly.

Windows Surface

Microsoft has Family Safety Controls for their PCs and Tablets. I found the best explanation for how to set these up at GottabeMobile. Parents have a lot of options for how to tailor these controls. They can choose what sites kids can visit, whether to restrict online communications and how much time kids can spend online. If sharing a tablet, parents can set up accounts for each child.

ESRB celebrates 20 years of Rating Games

esrb 20

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