Gaming: What Every Parent Needs to Know
For better or worse, video games are one of the most popular ways for kids to spend their time, and they're here to stay. For parents, the kinds of games that are available today might seem confusing or even concerning - but with a little know-how, it's easy to keep your kids safe while letting them have fun. Here are some things parents should know according to experts at PC Magazine and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).
Games Have Age Ratings
Movie fans are probably familiar with the G, PG, PG-13, and R rating scale. Games have a similar system put in place by the ESRB: the most common ratings are E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature. There are also ratings for Early Childhood (EC), Ages 10 and Up (E10), and Adults Only (AO).
If you can buy a video game in a store, it has an ESRB rating somewhere on the box. You can also search ratings online at esrb.org. In addition to the letter rating, you will see a simple list of any content parents might find objectionable.
Keep in mind that although these ratings can be helpful, they can also describe a wide range of content that differs from game to game. For example, the description "Fantasy Violence" can apply to a wide range of potential scenarios. It's a good idea to do additional research beyond seeking out the ESRB rating.
Some Games Let You Talk to Strangers
One thing the ESRB rating can't tell you is how people will act online. Game moderators and chat filters are often in place to make sure players don't say nasty things to each other, but there will always be things they don't catch. Even when an online game seems kid-friendly, its players might not be - especially when voice chat is involved. Some games, like Roblox, also let users create and upload their own game modes or other content, sort of like how YouTube lets users upload their own videos. Like YouTube videos, this content isn't always appropriate for children.
Does this mean playing online is always dangerous? Of course not - but it always pays to research exactly what online capabilities a game might have. Additionally, many newer consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox One and Series X have built-in parental controls that limit what your kids can do.
Some Games Have Hidden Charges
If you've ever played a mobile game where you can pay real money to skip a level, you know how this works. Some computer and console games have adopted "microtransactions," or in-game payments that cost real-world money. These might be extra levels, new features, or something as simple as unlocking an item early.
Games that advertise themselves as free or "free-to-play" are a hotbed for microtransactions, but other games have them too. Online shops or ESRB ratings might include wording about "in-app purchases" to signal they have microtransactions. This is another area where doing your research and setting up parental controls can save you a lot of headache. It's also a good idea not to save your credit or debit card info to a console's online store.
CommandIQ Can Help
Need to limit what your kids can do and see online? You're not on your own - MEC fiber internet customers can download the free CommandIQ app to implement a wide range of parental controls, including blocking online gaming content, as long as your kid's device is using your home internet network. The best way to use CommandIQ is in tandem with other parental controls already included on games and consoles.
You must have a GigaSpire router to use CommandIQ's parental controls. If you don't have one, we'll send you one for free. Visit teammidwest.com/which-router to see which router you have.