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Video Games: Online Game Safety Tips

Online games are wildly popular, deeply immersive, and a whole lot of fun. Players are encouraged to abandon their realities and explore a virtual world on their own, or among a group of online friends.  Parents, however, need to be alert.  Online games launch children into a world with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other real live people, all interacting together through their in-game avatars or characters.  Male, female, old, young…part of the allure of online gaming is that the actual players behind the avatars can remain anonymous.  Often, these games offer in-game voice chat as well as the traditional keyboard based chatting.

Protecting your child starts before he or she logs in. Here are 5 quick tips for parents to consider:

1) Before purchasing an online game, do some quick research on the Internet to find the game’s ESRB rating.  ESRB ratings are twofold: rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern.  Do not purchase a game that is too old for your child.  View any screenshots of the game to ensure they are acceptable.  Check for parental controls.  Some online games offer parents the ability to configure some basic rules, such as hours of the day the child is allowed to log in, and if voice chat is available.
2) Set the ground rules, and stick to them.  How many hours a day is your child allowed to play?  Are they allowed to participate in voice chat?  Communicate these rules clearly and make sure your child fully comprehends them.

3) Move your child’s computer to a common room (like the living room) so you can observe and listen to gameplay. 

4) Remind your child to avoid revealing his/her real name or any other personal information (including their phone number) to anyone they meet in-game. 

5) Keep in mind that people met 'in-game' are rarely who they say they are.  While there is a minimum age recommendation for a game, there is not a maximum.  Adults love online games as much as children do, and the person your child is chatting with may very well be an adult.

Think of an online game as a playground and not as a babysitter.   Parents need to actively monitor and participate in the activities of their children at the playground.   A little bit of attention will go a long way to make sure your child has tons of age-appropriate fun.

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Welcome to the SafetyWeb blog. We set this up so that our employees and guest bloggers would have a forum to discuss pertinent and emerging topics related to online safety. We will cover topics such as Online Friends and Online Reputation Management. Our goal is to empower parents and protect kids and teens. To that end, we will often point you to any of our own internal reference articles, as well as external resources that we find useful. If you have any suggestions for topics you would like us to address, please send us an email. In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy this blog, our free resources, and the SafetyWeb product. Here's to online safety!

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