Introducing the ESRB Family Gaming Guide

Written by Patricia E. Vance, President, ESRB
February 8, 2022

Video games are an important part of most kids’ day to day lives. What was once a means of pure entertainment has evolved into a virtual playground where children can gather with their friends to cooperate, compete, and communicate. Meanwhile, families all over America (and the world!) have embraced video games as a worthy entry into family game night.

With the speed at which this medium moves it can be challenging for parents and caregivers to keep up with all of the trends and popular titles. ESRB has long recommended that parents have an ongoing, judgement-free conversation with their kids about appropriate video games. We also want to give parents a place to go for actionable advice about how to make sure their kids have positive video game experiences.

We created the Family Gaming Guide to highlight key tips and information in an easily digestible way so parents can find what they need and get back to the game. Here’s a preview of what you’ll find in the Family Gaming Guide.

Selecting Appropriate Video Games

This section outlines how you can take steps to understand what’s in a video game or app before you decide to purchase or download something new for your kids. We provide more information on:

Establishing Household Rules

Most parents have household rules around video games in their home. We have an entire section dedicated to helping parents establish household rules around:

  • Getting permission to play a new game
  • Limiting spending on video games, including in-game purchases
  • Playing video games online
  • Managing screen time
  • And more!

Setting Up Child Accounts and Parental Controls

Parental controls are available for all video game devices, with more specific options available for a few of the more popular games among kids (e.g., Roblox, Fortnite).  These are a great backup to help you enforce household rules. The Family Gaming Guide explains how creating child accounts and setting parental controls can help you manage what your kids play, with whom, for how long, and whether they can spend additional money on in-game purchases.

Be sure to visit ParentalTools.org for step-by-step instructions on setting up parental controls by device or platform.

Limiting Money Spent

Parents tell us that one of their main concerns around video games is ensuring they hold the purse strings when it comes to purchasing new games and making in-game purchases. The Family Gaming Guide goes into detail about how you can best prepare for this, including:

  • How to set spending limits, or block it altogether
  • Finding out if a game offers in-game purchases
  • Learning more about what sort of in-game purchases are offered
  • And more!

Playing Multiplayer Games Online

Odds are your kids do a fair amount of socializing while playing their favorite games online. Whether they are chatting with their friends on Discord as they play, or going head-to-head in Fortnite (T for Teen) there are steps you can take as parents to make sure they have appropriate experiences. These include:

  • Knowing whom your kids are playing with
  • Reviewing the terms of service and community guidelines or codes of conduct
  • Learning how to block, mute, and report other players
  • Treating others appropriately
  • And more!

Managing Multiple Gamers in the Home

It can be challenging for parents to manage video games in a home with kids of varying ages and maturity levels. The Family Gaming Guide provides advice on what different age groups may be ready for, how you can set appropriate parameters, and how to enforce them.

The Positive Power of Video Games

While it’s important to know what’s in a game and how to best manage what your kids play, it’s easy to lose sight of the many benefits to playing video games. From mood-management, to socialization, to other less obvious benefits, video games can offer entire worlds of knowledge, friendship, and positive experiences.

Pat Vance HeadshotPatricia E. Vance is the president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). In her position, she leads the teams responsible for assigning age and content ratings to video games and apps, enforcing marketing guidelines adopted by the video game industry, and operating ESRB Privacy Certified, an FTC-sanctioned COPPA Safe Harbor Privacy seal certification program.