Fun or fantasy? How to know if a video game is right for your child
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Oct 28, 2013 | 26499 views | 0 0 comments | 81 81 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(BPT) - If you are like most Americans, you have computer and video game fans in your home. However, as a parent, it is not always easy to decide if a popular video game is right for your child. That is where ratings and parental controls can help.

Understanding what a particular video game entails is especially important as the holiday gift-giving season approaches. A friend or relative might buy your child the 'it' game with good intentions while not realizing it is meant for older, more mature gamers. In the end, it is the parent's responsibility to determine if a game is appropriate or should be exchanged for another option.

Clear ratings and parental controls on devices make it easy for parents to select the right games for their kids. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to make informed choices about appropriate video games through its rating system and other tools. ESRB ratings are printed on video game packages to clearly tell parents what games are appropriate for what age group, so parents can make the decision that is best for them.

To increase awareness, a new public service announcement educates parents about the ESRB ratings and parental controls. With the video game industry's unique partners, networks and technologies, the PSA can be seen on TV, video game consoles and websites, mobile devices and in stores through retailers.

When selecting a game for your children, or researching one received as a gift, follow these tips to determine if the game is right for them:

1. Check the rating printed on the package.

While an 'E for Everyone' rating means the game is suitable for all ages, a game rated 'T for Teen' has content that is more appropriate for older children and 'M for Mature' is generally meant for players ages 17 or older.

2. Read Content Descriptors and Interactive Elements.

ESRB ratings also include more detailed information about game content that may have triggered a particular rating, such as Crude Humor or Strong Language. Interactive Elements notices, which are listed at ESRB.org and on the free ESRB rating search mobile app, indicate the user's ability to broadcast their location with other players, share their personal information with third parties, or interact with other gamers online.

3. Set parental controls.

Whether your child owns a console, handheld device or plays on the computer, most video game systems have parental control options. These controls can be set to block games by ESRB rating category, regulate play time and restrict access to the Internet. Learn more about setting controls for individual systems at www.esrb.org/parents.

4. Check online reviews.

The Internet era has provided more information than ever about different video games. Online reviews are useful and may feature screenshots, video and written opinion to help parents get insight about a game before ordering or opening the package.

5. Be involved.

Parents should be proactive and aware of what games their children are playing, including with whom they are playing online. Parental involvement is the best way to ensure your kids enjoy games and stay safe online. Talk with your children about what they like or dislike about a game, ask whom they are playing with and when, and consider having all game play occur in a public area of the house so adults can easily monitor it.

While the content of video games today may be more varied than ever before, parents also have many more options for learning about video games and controlling what their kids will experience. Make sure you and your loved ones understand the ESRB rating system and other controls and keep holiday gift giving an enjoyable experience for all.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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