Video games are a great way to keep your kids entertained, educated and even physically active during the holiday season. But just as with any activity, parents need to take steps to educate themselves and ensure they are choosing games that are age and content appropriate.
The National Cyber Security Alliance teamed up with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a-profit, self-regulatory that provides parents with a variety of tools and resources to help them make informed purchase decisions when it comes to games for their family.
Here are our top tips for parents when giving a video game or gaming system:
- Check the rating: Just like movies and TV shows, some games are meant for children and others are really intended for adults to play. From ‘E for Everyone’ to ‘M for Mature,’ Rating Categories and Content Descriptors appear on nearly all video and computer games sold in the U.S. and Canada and are an easy guide to gauge age-appropriateness. Learn more at: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp.
- Get the detailed facts: For parents who want more specific information, Rating Summaries provide a detailed description of content that factored into a game’s rating, including examples. These can be found on the ESRB website or via their free mobile app, which is available for iPhone, Android and Windows phones. Learn more at: http://www.esrb.org/ratingsummaries.
- Refer to the experts: Video game store associates (who are often gamers themselves) and other parents can be valuable resources for guidance about a game, and game review websites often have photos and videos to help a parent get acquainted with game content. Learn more at: http://www.esrb.org/about/resources.jsp.
- Take time to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.: Today's devices are as powerful and connected as any PC or laptop. Before your kids sit down to play, take security precautions, understand the consequences of your actions and behaviors and enjoy the benefits of the Internet. Learn more at: www.stopthinkconnect.org.
- Keep a clean machine: All Internet-enabled devices need to be kept up-to-date to protect them from malware and other threats. Security protections are built in and updated on a regular basis. Take time to make sure all the mobile devices in your house have the latest protections. Before you start playing, be sure your computer/gaming system has the latest operating system, software - including anti-virus protection, web browsers and apps.
- Activate parental controls: Game consoles offer parental control features that allow parents to restrict games by ESRB rating, manage online access, and even limit how much time a child can use the system. Learn more at: http://www.esrb.org/about/settingcontrols.jsp.
- Protect kids’ privacy: Because online-enabled games can allow players to speak with one another, kids should know that they shouldn’t share personal information with others, even people they think they can trust. And that’s not limited to e-mail addresses and phone numbers, either; kids should know not to share personal details like where they go to school, where their parents work or what their weekend plans are. Make sure your child’s user name does not give away their real full name, location, gender, age, or any other personal information. (Examples: beach01, book2). Your kids should also use an avatar, not an actual picture of themselves.
- Be vigilant about cyberbullies: Cyberbullying is a growing concern as more and more kids go online, and just like on a real playground there can be the occasional bully in the game world as well. Talk to your kids about their online gameplay and make sure they know who to turn to if they encounter a bully, online or off. And do everyone a favor by reporting misbehavers to a game publisher or its online community moderator. Learn more at: http://www.esrb.org/about/familyguide.jsp .
For additional information about the ESRB, visit www.esrb.org