If Your Kid Is In To Video Games, Here’s What You Need To Know

September 11, 2017
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Do you think video games consist of nothing but fluffy puppy dogs, pretty flowers, friendly players, and content that doesn’t cost a cent?

Or do you perhaps think that video games consist of blood, guts, naked people, racists, and items that sell for 100’s of dollars?

The short answer lies somewhere in the middle and being a parent in the age of video games is scary because there’s so much out there to know. It honestly feels like exploring a jungle without a map.

We’re going to help you by explaining the world of video games at a basic level so you can make good decisions on what your children play. Whether its a game on a console, PC, or mobile device, here’s what you should know.

Age Ratings

There are many violent video games out there, and many of them are quite gory and disturbing.  To assist parents, games have clearly-defined age ratings similar to those offered by the MPAA for movies.

In the U.S., the rating board is called the ESRB, and its website gives a detailed breakdown of what the ratings mean. Other countries have their own rating systems (such as PEGI for Europe), however, they all follow a pretty similar structure.

The highest rating in the U.S. is AO (Adults Only), but you’ll seldom see games released in this range because retailers won’t carry them. The M (Mature) rating is where most adult games fall (like Call of DutyGrand Theft Auto, and Mortal Kombat), and these are recommended for ages 17 and up.

For the younger players, there are two categories of the Everyone rating: E10+ and E. An E10+ game might feature some cartoon violence or crude humor which could be inappropriate for very young children. Standard E-rated games are appropriate for people of all ages. Another rare rating is EC, which is Early Childhood. These games are simple and meant to educate young minds.

Regardless of a game’s rating, you can look on the back of the box to see the content descriptors. These offer specific categories of potentially, inappropriate content contained in a game that led to its rating. Common descriptors are Violence, Language, and Crude Humor.

Online Interactions

People can be horrible – and those who are given anonymity through the internet while competing in sometimes violent forms of competition can be super horrible.

When you launch a video game, a message which often sits alongside the rating is Online interactions not rated by the ESRB. That’s there because people will say offensive, insensitive, and otherwise crappy things about others online and there’s no way for the ESRB to police that.

Even if you’re not concerned about the M rating for a game you should definitely take those online interactions into consideration. There’s a big chance your child will hear every vulgar word under the sun, and they might even be called a few of them for no reason.

Very Few Games Are Free

Parents and kids are beaten over the head with “free” games, especially on smartphones and tablets. But one thing you, as the money-holding parent, need to keep in mind is that very few games are actually free. Instead, they’re usually filled with microtransactions which can add up quickly if not kept in check. Often, these games offer a limited amount of “lives” and then require either a waiting period or paying real money to try again.

These can range from one dollar to hundreds of dollars, so don’t let the micro terminology fool you into thinking they’re all small amounts!

You can disable these on just about every major mobile operating system. You can also use the parental control features on consoles (we’ll get to those in a bit) to prevent unauthorized purchases. When a game is free on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, or your phone, it can usually be played (or at least started) for free. But a child could easily rack up huge bills (either by accident or on purpose) quickly.

Parental Controls Are There to Help

All game consoles, smartphones, and tablets come with some form of parental controls and you can use these to prevent purchases, limit use times, and even prevent games that aren’t appropriate from working at all.

Parents can address just about all the issues we’ve looked at by taking the time to set up parental controls on their devices.

Some Age-Appropriate Games Are Hard

In many ways, challenge is a part of what makes video games fun but, when that challenge is too much, it has the opposite effect. So even if a game is rated E10+, it could still be too difficult for kids. That rating tells you that that content is (at least according to the rating board) safe for your kids, but it has nothing to do with how hard the game is.

The best way to find out the difficulty of a game is through reading reviews. More often than not, this is a talking point reviewers will bring up. If others are struggling to get through, Your child might, too.

Consoles Charge a Fee for Online Play

A bit of a hidden cost to console ownership is the cost of online play.

Microsoft started charging with Xbox Live, then Sony followed with PlayStation Plus. Nintendo has announced that it will also begin charging for online play with the Switch. One of the biggest appeals (and most terrifying aspects, as discussed above) of modern consoles is online play, and not having them really hurts the experience.While the costs aren’t massive ($60/year on Xbox One and PS4, $20/year on Switch), they are present.

To help ease the burden, all three console companies offer free games to go along with them, but you will need to “purchase” them while they’re free in order to play them later. There’s no charge for online play on PC unless a specific game has a monthly fee.

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to help your kids have fun and stay safe while playing video games.

It can seem crazy out there, and in some ways it is. But as long as you keep an eye on those ratings and use parental

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