Kids and gaming: Tips for parents to help kids play it safe

You can help keep your child’s gaming experiences safe, age-appropriate, friendly, fun, and even educational by educating yourself about the gaming community, game ratings, and how to use the privacy and safety tools built into the games.

Here are a few basic tips on how to help protect your children when they play games and compete online.

    Educate yourself. Become familiar with game ratings and privacy statements, and review each online gaming site’s terms of acceptable use.

    See the Xbox Live code of conduct page as an example.

      Observe. Check out the games your children play and whom they play with. Place the computer or game console (for example, Microsoft Xbox) in a place where it can be easily monitored if needed.
        Set rules. You should do this before your child goes online, and be comfortable that he or she understands them.

        Typical rules include limiting play time, playing with off-line world friends only, and never chatting with strangers or giving out any personal information, including the child’s real name or where they live.

          Monitor game chats and messages. If a player is using inappropriate language, encourage your child to tell you.

          You may be able to select the offending player’s name from the players list to mute or block their messages, or you can report them to game administrators using e-mail, chat, or feedback. Check the game site in question for more information.

            Ensure privacy. Advise your kids to never give out any personal information (for example, their name, age, gender, or home address), pictures of themselves, or agree to meet someone in person, when using online chats.

            Make sure they know to tell you immediately if someone asks them for this information.

              Use voice chat wisely. Some game systems allow voice chatting with other players through the use of a headset. (This is not recommended for younger children.)

              See your computer or game console manual for more information about this feature.

              Note:┬áVoice masking or cloaking technology that can disguise a child’s real voice is now available for computers and most game consoles, such as Microsoft Xbox. Note that adults can mask their voice, too, however, and not everyone is necessarily who they say they are.

                Choose appropriate names. Have your child use suitable screen or character names (also called gamertags) that follow the rules of the game site. These names should not reveal any personal information or potentially invite harassment.
                  Be aware of cyberbullies. Learn how to deal with bullies in online games, also known as griefers.
                    Teach your kids cybersafe habits. Tell your kids that if they feel uncomfortable with anything that’s going on in a game, they should stop playing and tell you about it immediately, so you can record and report the issue if necessary.
                      Participate. One of the safer ways for your kids to play online games is if you play with them. This may be the last thing they want to do, especially if they’re older kids, but it’s a good way to help them learn how to deal with others online while still having fun.

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