I first checked this blog. I found that Holly posted some good tips for gaming safety of the Wii. I also found some helpful things at the manufacturer's web site (in my case, Wii). I searched the web site for "parental controls" and familiarized myself with how to use them and know to ask Mom and Dad what their password is so I can use it if needed.
Since they are likely going to also want to use my computer, I am also checking my settings on my own computer and installing parental controls. Enough.org, whom I've mentioned before, has some good resources from which parents can learn for all topics technology and safety related. I am more familiar with these topics, but since I haven't had children in the house for any length of time before, I am brushing up.
A few other resources that can help:
ESRB: This is the group who rates all video games by age group and tell why the ratings were chosen (violence, language, etc.) They can tell you
Internet Safety 101 is a resource for all things internet safety related. Since most gaming systems use the internet as part of the play, I am refreshing my knowledge here as well. You can order the entire program for yourself.
Do you have any more tips for my upcoming visit with kids that I may not have thought of?
- The Time Machine Children's Time Management System
- Time's Up! TV and Gaming Time Limiting Device
I have not used, nor can I endorse these items, but I am intrigued by them. Have you ever seen something like this in use? What do you think of them?
Because it has the LEGO brand associated with it, kids may be interested in it. The game will give parents the ability to limit some aspects of their children's game play, including time limits.
If your child asks about playing an online game like this one, or any other MMOG - understand that not all are the same. Some are mostly played by adults, and some are mostly played by small children.
Some things to watch for:
-- Some online games have a monthly fee
-- Some games require a lot of memory, a very high speed computer and high speed connection
-- Some games (especially those for small children) are very limiting to what can be said online. This helps keep small kids safe, but may be stifling for older kids and teens.
-- Even though some games don't have "adult content", they are intended for adults. If a young teen was playing, it may be disruptive to other adults playing (which can be frustrating for both people).
-- As part of your homework, check sites such as CommonSenseMedia.org for age-by-age recommendations.
For those who are under 18, you will have to wait for Microsoft to finalize the parental controls to allow you to do the same. They say it will be a few weeks.
The Xbox (and many other gaming systems) have had the ability to connect to the Internet for a while. It now seems the online world and offline world are blurring that much more. What do you think about this functionality?
Nintendo DS and Nintendo DS Lite (a redesign of the original DS) are handheld gaming devices that, in addition to individual game play, offer multiplayer online gaming and chat through a wireless local area network (LAN) or over Nintendo's Wi-Fi service.
Online Gaming (via Nintendo Wi-Fi)
Nintendo DS and DS Lite have over 60 games that can be played online using the Nintendo Wi-Fi service.
To play online with others, users need to exchange friend codes, unique twelve digit numbers generated by playing Internet-enabled games. Each Internet-enabled game generates a different friend code. To become "friends" and play online, users must manually exchange friend codes. Often times, users publically post their friend codes online in message boards and blog posts to find others to play against.
Multiplayer Gaming (via LAN)
Nintendo DS and DS Lite enable users to play multiplayer games with other DS users that are within 65 feet of them using a LAN.
PictoChat is a picture drawing and text chat application built into Nintendo DS and DS Lite that utilizes a LAN. PictoChat enables users to send picture drawings and text messages to other DS users within approximately 65 feet of each other. There is no requirement to exchange friend codes to communicate using PictoChat.
Nintendo offers web browser applications for both the Nintendo DS and DS Lite that can be purchased separately. Web filtering technology has been integrated into the browser that provides parents with the option of blocking inappropriate content. You can learn more about the browser including the filtering technology by visiting: http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/dslite/browser.jsp.
Beyond the filtering technology in the optional web browser, the Nintendo DS and DS Lite have no built-in parental controls and parents should consider the following:
- Parental oversight is needed to ensure age appropriate game play and communication.
- Communication on the DS and DS Lite is not private.
- Parents should share the same general online safety tips with their children that they would for Internets chat environments including no sharing of personal information and no speaking to people they do not know.
To learn more about what Nintendo suggests to parents, visit: http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/ds/dsprivacy.jsp.
The Nintendo Wii video game console can be connected to the Internet for access to a variety of features and content such as multiplayer gaming, online communication including the exchange of user created content, news, weather, game downloads, and web browsing.
News, weather, multiplayer gaming and online communication are free using Nintendo Wi-Fi. To play online and interact with others, Wii users must manually exchange friend codes generated by playing Internet-enabled games. The use of friend codes doesn't always ensure your children are playing with someone they know because codes are often posted publically to message boards and blogs by users looking for other game players.
In addition to the free features, users have the option of purchasing video games for download as well as Nintendo's Web browser for Internet surfing. These purchases are made using Wii Points which can be bought at retails stores or online. To learn more about the purchasing and use if Wii Points visit: http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/channelsShop.jsp.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 offers game playing and movie watching. It also offers Xbox Live, an optional, subscription based service offering online multiplayer gaming, voice, text and video chat, and multimedia downloads such as games, movies, and TV shows.
Xbox 360 offers parental controls called Family Settings to help control the types of games and movies that your children can play or view based on their industry content ratings. They also provide settings to control Xbox live. The following highlights the Family Settings for the Xbox.
The default for video settings on the Xbox 360 is "Allow All Games" which allows users to play Early Childhood (EC), Everyone (E), Everyone 10+ (E10+), Teen (T) and Mature (M) games. Xbox does not support Adult (AO) games. You can change the Game Ratings setting to the ESRB rating you determine is appropriate for your children.
The Video Rating option in the Family Settings has four categories: "Movie Ratings," "TV Ratings," "Explicit Video," and "Unrated Video." The movie and TV settings are based on industry ratings and are defaulted to allow all rated movies and shows which gives users access to R-rated movies and mature TV programs; however you can change this setting to reflect what is age-appropriate for your children. Explicit and unrated videos are also set by default to allow these types of videos, but you have the ability to block access to them.
The default setting for Xbox Live is to allow access. If you decide to block access, there is no ability to connect to Xbox Live to interact or download content. If you decide to allow access, there are additional settings that you need to be aware of and set including access to online games, text and voice chat, as well as video chat.
Video gaming can be an enjoyable and entertaining experience for the whole family and there are many games to choose as well as consoles. Like other forms of entertainment there are age-appropriate considerations for both the content of the video game and the functionality offered within the video game console.
If you are considering purchasing a video game, make certain that you take a look at the rating. All video and computer games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (or ESRB). The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that independently assigns computer and video game content ratings along with enforcing advertising guidelines and helping to ensure responsible privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.
ESRB ratings have two components, the rating symbol and the content descriptor. The rating symbol gives guidance on age-appropriateness of the game and is found on the front of the video game package. There are 6 age ratings:
- Early Childhood ("EC") – Recommended for ages 3 and older
- Everyone ("E") – Recommended for ages 6 and older
- Everyone 10 Plus ("E10+") – Recommended for ages 10 and older
- Teen ("T") – Recommended for ages 13 and older
- Mature ("M") – Recommended for ages 17 and older
- Adults Only (Adults Only) – Only Ages 18+
Content descriptors provide context for the age rating and are located on the back of the video game package. There are 30 content descriptors in total ranging from alcohol references, to violence, sexual themes, simulated gambling, and tobacco. For a full explanation of ESRB ratings and descriptors, visit http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp.
The ESRB also provides a helpful search tool on their homepage so you can easily find the ESRB rating for a game. The tool allows you to search by title, rating, content descriptor, publisher and platform and can be found by visiting: http://www.esrb.org/index-js.jsp. SafetyClicks also provides the ESRB rating tool on our home page for your convenience.