In our last article, we discussed the overview of digital games and the likely good effects to kids. But online games, likewise, spawned a new challenge for parents as kids become addictive to the point of disrupting normal routine, affecting studies and normal social life. As parent, our role is to protect them from possible harm, to ensure balance and raise them to be responsible netizens.
To be able to do this, we need to engage our kids and likewise use the tools at our disposal. Our involvement will diminish, if not eliminate, the influence these video games give.
Here are some practical tips:
1. Be familiar with game ratings. Just like TV programs and movies, games have “age appropriate” ratings and classifications too. The Philippines has no regulating body for games yet, thus we rely on the US based Entertainment Software Rating or ESRB ratings. Below are the existing game classifications:
2. Review the games with your kids. Giving a “blanket” approval or restriction to gaming is not healthy. Familiarize yourself with the game, and be on the proactive position to explain these to your kids. For a good game review resource page for parents, follow this link: http://www.thesource4parents.com/VideoGameReviews/Reviews.aspx
3. Talk about the game. This is an opportunity to reinforce the values you want your child to embrace. A good talking point, for example, is “game cheats”. These are downloadable bots, or special tricks that players pass on to each other to get an upper hand. A kid’s character can be strengthened while playing video games, if they find it normal to cheat on virtual world, what will prevent them from cheating on the real world?
4. Tools To Regulate. There are several tools at hand that can help you regulate kids playtime in the computer. As a Tattoo@Home subscriber, take advantage of the “surf safe” bundle to give your family the extra protection. You can use this tool to set the computer & playing time of your child; block online games as a category or just allow specific gaming sites. You can also keep track of your child’s activity and have it sent to your email address.
5. Play with your child. Tweens associate time with parents as boring, house chore work, tutoring and alike. Break the monotony play with your kids and have fun.
6. In public area. PCs and/or game consoles should be played or located in common areas of the house. You can’t monitor what you do not see; you can’t manage what you do not know. Some families have this rule: “bedroom is for sleeping, for everything else, do it outside”.
7. Privacy at all times. Teach your kids to observe a strict privacy rule. No sharing of real time pictures on profile, not disclosing real name, location and other personally identifiable information when playing online games.
8. Limit engagement. Teach kids to limit engagement with strangers, and limit discussion, if any, on the game itself. Any discussion about family, where they live and study should be avoided.
9. No “eye ball” (EB) rule for strangers. Some families give exception if EB is a public “group” event, will take place in a public venue, and if the tween is accompanied by an adult.