A little help for parents with holiday shopping on the brain.
Video games are sure to be on a lot of lists, so check out these tips from MacaroniKid.com & the Entertainment Software Rating Board to make sure you get your kids the right one.
1. Check the rating: ESRB Rating Categories and Content Descriptors appear on nearly all games sold in the U.S. and Canada and are an easy guide to gauge age-appropriateness. Many packaged games also have Rating Summaries, which provide a detailed description of content that factored into a game's rating, including examples. These can be found on the ESRB website or via their free mobile app, which is available for iPhone, Android and Windows phones.
2. Consider interactive elements: Many digital games and mobile apps are also ESRB-rated, and in addition to their age and content rating these games may also be assigned Interactive Elements, a recently-added component to the ESRB rating system. These notices include:
Shares Info - Indicates that personal information provided by the user (e.g., e-mail address, phone number, credit card info, etc.) is shared with third parties;
Shares Location - Includes the ability to display the user's location to other users of the app;
Users Interact - Indicates possible exposure to unfiltered/uncensored user-generated content, including user-to-user communication and media sharing via social media networks.
While not every game or app storefront displays all three parts of ESRB ratings (Rating Category, Content Descriptors, Interactive Elements), this information is always available by searching ESRB.org.
3. Do some research: Regardless of where the purchase is made - online or in-store - a little virtual window shopping beforehand can save parents time and prevent them from making a hasty purchase. Retailer's websites and game review sites often have photos and videos to help a parent get acquainted with game content. Video game store associates (who are often gamers themselves) and other parents can also be valuable resources for guidance about a game. Ask for recommendations, and even better, try the game out for yourself.
4. Activate parental controls: Game consoles offer parental control features that allow parents to restrict games by ESRB rating, manage online access, and may even limit how much time a child can use the system. Visit ESRB.org/parents to find instructions for your video game system so that you can effectively manage your children's video game play.
5. Be vigilant about cyberbullies: Cyberbullying is a growing concern as more and more kids go online. And just like on a real playground, there can be the occasional bully in the virtual game world as well. Talk to your kids about their online gameplay and make sure they know who to turn to if they encounter a bully, online or off. And do everyone a favor by reporting misbehavers to a game publisher or its online community moderator.
Holiday shopping for video games doesn't have to be stressful or confusing. Parents can make it an informative and even fun experience by educating and preparing themselves to make the right purchases. Parents can get more helpful information through the Parent Resource section on ESRB.org, by liking ESRB's Facebook page, following ESRB on Twitter (@OKtoPlay), or subscribing to ESRB on YouTube.