The term “video game” spans everything from playing a simple game of Solitaire to massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) with whole virtual universes. In MMOGs, users interact with other players, and transactions – usually points or game enhancements, but sometimes real money – are involved. Some games are purchased and installed on devices, others are downloaded from the internet, and some are played exclusively online.
Online gaming has become hugely popular and can be a great way for families to interact and spend time together within limits. Research shows that playing video games with your children is beneficial. Parents that play games with their children set up a safer gaming experience and will probably see an increase in trust by being involved. Knowing what games are safe and child friendly and learning how to know which games are age - appropriate for your children can help make the online gaming experience fun and educational. Here are a few resources and ideas for you to establish safe and age appropriate guidelines you’re your children when playing online games.
Tips & Best Practices
- Understand how games are rated so you can understand and identify the type of content in each game your child plays. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) helps parents make informed choices about the games their families play. The ESRB also helps parents learn how to use parental controls which can help manage your children’s video game use, even when you aren’t around.
- Set time limits for playing online games. Playing games online should be limited based on the age and development of each child. You can set guidelines such as no gaming until homework and chores are done, more gaming is allowed on weekends vs. school nights, and that two nights a week are technology free nights in your home.
- Make sure to review games before allowing your children to play to make sure they are age appropriate and play with them. Understand the games they’re playing and join in the fun. Not only will this give you a great way to bond with your child, it will give you the insight into what’s going on in the game.
- Talk to your kids about being safe when playing games online. Parents should engage in honest dialogue with their kids to learn more about what games they enjoy, and children can learn more about their parents’ concerns with respect to playing games. The Federal Trade Commission offers consumer information for parents on online gaming safety and talking to your kids about online gaming.
Have you ever talked with your kids about cyberbullying? Some parents don’t know how serious cyberbullying can be, so they don’t talk about it. When I speak with fathers about child safety, I encourage them to include this topic in their conversations.
What is it and why should you care?
For fathers who aren’t familiar with cyberbullying, it’s exactly what it sounds like—bullying through technology like cellphones and social media.
At what age can children start playing online games?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children younger than 18 months avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media, such as online games, should choose high-quality programming, and play it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing as well as make sure it is appropriate for their age. For children ages 2 to 5 years, parents are advised to limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs, including playing online games. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them. For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.
How do I make sure my child is safe when playing online games?
Setting ground rules for online gaming at home is essential, but remember, your kids can play online games from anywhere and on any device. Educate yourself about the gaming community, game ratings, and how to use the privacy and safety tools built into the games. Check out the safety features and parental controls offered by all the major gaming consoles including Xbox, Wii, and PlayStation.
Where can I find recommendations for games that are age appropriate for my child?
Common Sense media has a list of games that are challenging, fun, and age appropriate. If you have a question about a game your child has shown interest in, use the ESRB search feature to learn about the rating and game platforms required.