Check the rating. Checking for a game's ESRB rating - on
game packages or online - is a great place to start in terms of gauging its age-appropriateness. If you want more info, many of the games rated by ESRB also
have rating summaries that describe in detail exactly what type of content a parent would
want to know about, along with specific examples. You can even access them from the store using ESRB's
free mobile app.
Check game reviews. Game review websites are another great
resource, often providing screen shots, videos and other resources that can help a parent get acquainted with a game's content.
Set parental controls. Parental controls built into the game console or handheld device itself also let parents restrict games by their
ESRB rating. Some consoles' parental controls even let parents decide when and for how long their child can play, who they can play with, or even let you
"mute" or disable the ability for your child to hear the game's online chat (which can at times be pretty colorful). Check out
these guides for instructions on setting up parental controls.
Be vigilant and monitor. Just as parents pay attention to the people their children interact with in the real world, that same
vigilance is required when their children play or interact online. Certain console-based online gaming services provide parents with the ability to
approve friend requests and set up approved lists of friends their child can play with and talk to.
Speak up. In addition to blocking a player who behaves in an inappropriate manner, you can also notify a game's publisher or online
service about the offender. Check the online service's or game publisher's Terms of Service for instructions on how to file a complaint about another
player, and be sure to include as much information and evidence as possible about the player in question.
Be involved. Parental involvement is the best tool parents have in managing and monitoring online safety. Stay involved, keep your
computer or game system in a common area so you can keep an eye and ear on the action, and talk with your kids about what they're playing and whom they're
Look out for mods. Some games offer players the ability to modify their content, sometimes in ways that are not consistent with the
ESRB rating. These changes can be made by using a special cheat device or a free downloadable program called a "mod."
Don't disclose. Make sure that your children know not to divulge personal or financially sensitive information about themselves or
other family members when completing profiles, purchasing items or interacting with others online. And personal information isn't merely limited to things
like home address and phone number; kids should be mindful about revealing other aspects of their lives like where they go to school, who they hang out
with, where their parents work, or what their plans are for the weekend.
Set limits. Set and discuss limits on what your children can do when playing games online and how long they are allowed to play -
online or off.
Beware of cyberbullies. Cyberbullying is a serious and growing problem, and can be just as real and hurtful as the traditional kind.
Watch for warning signs that your child is the
target of cyberbullying (such as changes in computer usage, increased anxiety or depression, reluctance to go to school and/or socialize), and be sure your
child knows and uses proper "netiquette" when playing games online.