What You Wish You Knew: A Parent’s Guide to Video Games, Parental Controls, and Online Safety

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Like many activities in which children and teens engage, gaming poses potential dangers. We have created What You Wish You Knew: A Parent’s Guide to Video Games, Parental Controls, and Online Safety to help parents and guardians better understand these dangers. Advanced game consoles coupled with high-speed internet allow your children to play games online with people all over the world. Many games feature social and interactive elements such as chat or online competitions; others can be expanded or altered by downloading player-created content on the Internet. In addition, gaming can often affect young people’s mental health, lowering self-esteem and self-efficacy, and increasing anxiety, aggression, and even clinical symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.

While video games feature built-in, adjustable safety and privacy settings, there is always the risk of bullying, exposure to inappropriate content, and online predators. By educating, monitoring, and limiting video game use, your child’s mental, physical, and emotional health can be supported and maintained. Video games can be a great source of entertainment and learning for the whole family, but it ’s important for parents to fully appreciate what the experience of playing games today encompasses.

As a parent myself, helping others protect their kids from potential threats to their health, safety, and well-being is a particularly meaningful par t of my work . It ’s up to us to be informed about what and how our children play and to make appropriate choices on their behalf. Fortunately, there are many tools and resources we can use to better understand the games we bring home, as well as to help ensure that the gameplay experience our children are enjoying is a safe and secure one. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB®) rating system is one such tool, providing helpful guidance about the content and
age-appropriateness of computer and video games. Parental controls are available on all new video game platforms, letting us exercise even greater control over the games our children play. And when it comes to games played over an Internet connection, knowing the tools at our disposal can be crucial to ensuring our kids are safeguarded from inappropriate content and encounters with other players they would be better off avoiding.

If you have any questions or comments about safe, positive, age-appropriate gaming, please email me at jeffrey@legacyhealthendowment.org Thank you,