Video Game Safety Strategies
Video Game Safety
"Overall, 17% [of surveyed children] say their parents check the ratings on the video games they buy. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, two-thirds of all 7th- to 12th-graders say they have played the controversial Grand Theft Auto game,” —The Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-olds, 2005
Some video games are for kids. Some aren’t.
Do you know what’s in that computer or video game your child wants to buy or rent? Just as with movies and TV shows, computer and video games on the market today are created for players of differing ages and maturity levels. Some games have content that may not be suitable for children. As parents, we have a responsibility to guide our children toward games that we decide are appropriate for them to play. That’s why parents should read game reviews, talk to older children and other parents, and try out demos of the games online or in stores before they make a purchase.
In addition to taking these steps, parents should check the ratings on every computer and video game box to help choose the right games for their family. Found on virtually every computer and video game package, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings provide information about age suitability and describes the content of the game.
Helpful Tips for Parents
- Check the ratings. Use both ESRB rating symbols and content descriptors to select appropriate games for your children. Before you go shopping, visit ESRB for specific ratings information.
- Consider your child’s personality, maturity and abilities. Video game ratings provide guidance. Parents should decide which games are appropriate for their children.
- Don’t stop at the ratings. Speak to older children and other parents, rent before purchasing, read game reviews, and try out demos of games online or in stores where games are sold.
- Look closely at the box the game comes in. Most video games have screen shots of the game on the back of the box showing typical scenes from the game. Determine if you are comfortable with the characters, scene depiction, and level of action portrayed before you buy or rent the game. Additional screen shots are available online at game preview websites, such as Game Revolution, GameSpot, or GameSpy.
- Know the store’s return policy. Many stores will not accept video game returns if the cellophane wrapping has been opened. Check with the store before you make your purchase. Many major retailers (link opens in PDF) will, however, allow parents to return or exchange games sold to their children in violation of store enforcement policies regarding the sale of Mature-rated video games.
- Play video games with your children. Playing or observing helps you understand your child’s video game experience, while providing a fun parent/child activity. Talk to your child and ask him or her about the game, what makes it fun for them, what is the story-line, is the game real or make-believe?
- Use parental controls. Newer video game systems allow parents to restrict specific game content by rating. Check with the manufacturer of your video game system for more information, or ask a video game retail sales associate about the availability of parental controls.
- Be cautious with “online-enabled” games. Many popular games can be played with friends (and strangers) over the Internet. Often, these games contain live chat or other user-generated content that is not rated by the ESRB and may not be consistent with the rating assigned to the game.
- Be aware of “mods” that can change a game. Downloadable programs (“mods”) can alter game content and the game’s age-appropriateness. Some mods can contain viruses or spy-ware, making them dangerous predators to your family computer.
- Set household media use rules. Establish rules for your children and encourage open communication about their media use so they recognize what you feel is inappropriate content.