Written by Jenny Reese, MIM Intern
Do your kids love playing video games? If so, this post is for you! A recent study shows that over 90% of parents don’t monitor the video games that their kids play (The American Academy of Pediatrics). This is problematic because a large portion of video games contain sexually explicit material that is not fit for children. Many parents are also unaware of the video game rating system. Here are a few quick tips for keeping your kids safe from sexual content and pornography when they play video games.
1. Know the rating system.
The rating system for video games is called the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). There are two components of theESRB: rating symbols and content descriptions. The rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the video game, and the content descriptions provide a more detailed look into the actual depictions of the video game.
The following ratings symbols contain appropriate content for children: EC (Early Childhood), which should contain nothing inappropriate, and E (Everyone), which may include mild fantasy violence but no nudity. However, you should actively monitor the content to make sure you are comfortable with what the game entails. You could even play the video game with your child so you can know what they are being exposed to.
Rating symbols also consist of E 10+ (Everyone Over 10 Years Old), T (Teen), M (Mature—Only Suitable for Those over 17 Years Old), or AO (Adult Only). If you allow your children to play video games with these ratings, be sure you know exactly what type of content the video game contains. I would rule out any video game with an M or AO rating. Be wary video games containing thesecontent descriptions: Nudity, partial nudity, sexual violence, strong sexual content, sexual themes and strong violence.
It is not illegal for minors to buy video games with an M or AO rating, but most stores have policies in place to protect kids; these policies require an individual over the age of 17 to buy the game, and he or she must also have a valid ID. However, remember that all stores do not have such policies!! Depending on the store policy, a young teen could easily buy an M or AO video game. Make sure you know what video games your child has access to.
There are also pornographic, violent video games that can be easily accessed through the Internet—since these games are not bought in stores, no ID is required to verify age. Make sure you have filters in place so that your children cannot access these Internet-based video games.
2. Know what video games your kids play at their friend’s house
Have you ever worried about your child playing inappropriate video games and their friend’s house? If you answered yes, don’t be afraid to talk to the parents of those friends. Most parents will happily discuss video games safety—they want to protect their own children as well. If you encounter complacent parents, don’t let your kids play video games at their house. Parents could even consider only allowing their kids to play video games in their own home, where the parent can closely supervise content.
3. Choose good video games
If you are looking for good video games for your kids, here’s a list of the best new family-appropriate video games. Many of these appeal to children as well as adults, so don’t be surprised if you get hooked on the game too! (According to Common Sense Media, these video games contain no sexual content.)
- Wii Party
- Wii Nintendo Land
- Lego Universe
- Civilization V
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
- Disney Epic Mickey
- New Super Mario Bros. U
- Skylanders Giants
- Wonderbook: Book of Spells
- Scribblenauts Unlimited
- Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
- FIFA Soccer 13
More information on the ESRB can be found here: http://www.getgamesmart.com/
WRITTEN BY JENNY REESE
Jenny is a recent graduate from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. At BYU, she studied public health and business management while working as a research assistant. This fall she will be starting a master’s program in public administration at the University of Utah. Jenny enjoys biking, sewing, and spending time with friends and family.