Mobile apps, online video games, connected gaming consoles—chances are your children are enamored with at least one or two. Many of these platforms are educational, as well as fun. But there are pitfalls too, like privacy concerns, hidden fees, and online safety issues. Here are the best ways to help your child stay safe while gaming online.
Check the Content Ratings
Make sure that the games your child is playing are appropriate for his or her age group. You can set controls to filter games by their content rating.
- The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has devised a rating system which separates gamesinto three categories, based on their content: Everyone, Teen, and Mature (17+)
- Some mobile apps stores offer their own rating systems, while others use a system jointly designed by the ESRB and CTIA-The Wireless Association
Set and Monitor Controls
Online mobile app stores and most smartphones have parental controls to manage kids' purchases and app use. Among other options, you can:
- Restrict app content by age, making sure your kids can't download apps or make in-app purchases without parental approval
- Disable any location-sharing features, which means for online games that are played in a browser, you should check that browser's control settings
Monitor Your Child's Game Usage
If possible, keep your computer or game system in a common area. This will allow you to:
- Keep track of what games your children play
- Ask questions and initiate conversation if necessary
Beware of In-Game Chat
Many online games allow players to interact with one another via instant messaging or even voice messaging. We recommend:
- Seting parental controls that block chat for all but pre-chosen users
- Talking with your child about the importance of never giving out personal information in chat
Most importantly, parents should consider limiting chat to real-life friends and family. Our Identity Ecosystem project has found that even seemingly innocuous information can be vulnerable.
Keep the Conversation Going
Ask your child what games and apps they like to play. That way you can set clear rules and expectations about how long they can play each day. This will also allow you to:
- Know who they interact with or share personal information with while playing
- Make a plan as a family for dealing with inappropriate behavior from other players
Funded by a partnership with the Texas Legislature, and powered by the Center for Identity, IDWise is a resource center for the public on identity theft, fraud, and privacy.