ESRB Video Game Ratings Explained – Do Parents Really Care?

It’s been a decade since ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), the popular self-regulatory organization for video games’ content established. Now, it has become a de facto standard for the content ratings in the overall game industry. Here, I’d like to raise two questions.

  • Can ESRB have succeeded in bringing right changes in the gaming industry?
  • Do we need a rating system for computer/video games?

Let’s address the second question first. In a survey conducted by ESRB in the United States last year, 84% of the parents who have participates are aware of ESRB ratings, while 69% of them used to regularly check these ratings before purchasing a game for their kids.

Fifteen years before, exactly in the year 2000, ESRB had conducted another survey on the US taking the same number of parents. Then, they could that – only 61% are aware of ESRB and its rating system.

Yes, parents are transforming. They care the content appropriate for their kids. Ratings have become a scale of what content will be present to kids.

The Role of ESRB in Video Game Content Regulation

ESRB was established on 1994 by Entertainment Software Association. Its objective is to inform consumers about the content of games it reviewed. Such a rating can be seen on a game’s package, on ads, or in game sites. ESRB uses a two-part rating system which includes a rating system that suggests age-appropriateness, and content descriptors to show the content based on which the rating is based.

Identification of Ratings

ESRB ratings are identified through their icons, that are displayed on the game package.

EC (Early Childhood): Game labelled with EC tag have content suitable for kids from 3 years. It won’t have any material that parents need to care about. Most of these games would be educational in nature.

E (Everyone): Appropriate to children over 6+ years. Games in this category may have minimal violence. Games like Super Mario Bros are examples.

E10+(Everyone teen and older): Clearly specifies that unsuitable to children under 10 years of age. It may contain animated blood and mild violence.

T(Teen): Games classified under this label are unsuitable for kids under age 13. These games may contain violence, suggestive themes, moderate language, minimal blood-gore, etc. The Sims series is a perfect example.

M(Mature): Here, the content would be only appropriate for the age 17 and above. These games are characterized by intense violence, blood-gore, sexual themes, strong language, etc. Resident Evil series, Call of Duty series are examples.

AO (Adults Only): Any games featured in this category are not suitable for those aged under 18. Most of these games may contain intense sex/nudity, extreme violence that includes blood and gore. Nowadays, major game console manufacturers are strictly prohibiting the release/sale of AO rated games on their consoles.

RP (Rating Pending): If a publisher has submitted its product and awaiting the rating, it will be marked with RP rating.

Now, it’s the time to look at our first question. Till now in the US, there’re no federal laws that prevent the sale of violent games to children. Here comes the relevance of ESRB. For parents, these ratings offer a great way to choose the right game for their kids. ESRB adopts most effective attributes of MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) guidelines to improve their enforcement mechanism.

Today, ESRB is the most comprehensive parental guidance system in the gaming industry. Its current rating system is undoubtedly effective in providing moms and dads the right suggestion – to choose games right for their children.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Parenting

Virtual visitation – Last few years, this was the term used to indicate visual interactions between parents and kids separated by a distance. Webcams, video chats were all the part of these virtual interactions. What about a quick analysis on the merits and demerits of these “virtual parenting” techniques?

One thing is certain – these virtual time can never replace the need for direct interactions with a kid who hasn’t completed preschool. Contradicting voices may raise on this. But, I’d recommend only this -“something is better than nothing”.

Virtual Visitation is the total sum of communication tools to facilitate parent-child relationships. Distance has never been a communication barrier here.

Advantages of Virtual Parenting

Kids have to get proper guidance from their parents at the right time – on various issues they may face. But, there can some situations where kids get separated from their parents for a fairly long period of time. Virtual parenting tools can diminish the extent of this separation.

In 2004, a legislation passed on US state of Utah for authorizing the judges for a “virtual visitation”. Generally known as Saige’s Law, this recommends to

parents are required to ‘permit and encourage’ telephone and Internet communication when the technology is ‘reasonably available’.   

It was a wise move. At then, there were more than 35 million children in the US alone who were separated from their parents.

Well, this legislation influenced law authorities of various US states. Many of them followed Utah’s path to pass bills on the favor of this issue.

Many kinds of research reveal kids feel closer to parents while using technology. In social media platforms like Facebook, most of the kids accept their parent’s friend requests without hesitation.

One of the research reveals this factor also – if online interactions made between parents and kids are positive, it’d affect their offline relationships in a constructive way.

Disadvantages of Virtual Parenting

Parents would be interested to know their kids’ online friends circle. But if they are using any kind of over-intrusive approach know such things, it may create a negative impact on kids. Actually, kids should feel their parents’ engagement in virtual parenting, not there monitoring. I’m saying this on the fact that there are parents who are punishing their kids by seeing the content they publish online.

Why You Need to Know More About Parental Controls?

Several times, you might’ve talked to your kids about internet safety and the need to limit their screen time. Right?

But, how often you think about the effectiveness of these conversations? You don’t have to be a child therapist/psychologist to measure this. Some kids will listen to you and behave only the way you want, some will not.

It’ll be good to refer Erik Erikson, the psychiatrist who defined 8 Stages of Social-Emotional Development. For him, each of this stage is a period of “psychosocial crisis” which demands resolution before entering the next stage. He believes that the formal school age of a kid (before reaching adolescence stage), is a period of competence. It’s the period where a child learns life lessons structured by formal rules. Any kind of Guilt or mistrust can make a big impact on child’s behavior.

Let’s get back to practical. Sometimes, you may feel like it’s really difficult to manage your kids’ activities, even you’re with them. But, if you know how to optimally use parental controls, you can provide your children – a safe and productive online experience. Only one point; you can’t provide such an atmosphere if your kids feel like you are stealing something from them.

Kids have to know about the pros and cons of technology, whether we like it or not. Only parents can guide them to choose the right materials for them. It can start from basics.

Mobile Devices: Last week, techcrunch.com published an article on kids’ device usage – based on the studies by Influence Central, a US market research agency. By this report, the average age at which a child get his/her smartphone is 10.3 years.

One more interesting report. It is from Researchers at the University of Washington. They collected data from more than 50 families. More than 90% of the participants, said that their kids start tantrums when their devices are taken away. It also reveals the ineffectiveness of warnings before taking up screens from them. Clearly, this report was pointing out the need to establish a formal screen time for kids.

Now, several mobile devices have their own parental control features- varies from device to device. But, not all smartphones wouldn’t have these features. But, there’re many parental control apps to sort out this problem.

Web Browsers: Most of today’s modern browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. have in-built parental control features. You can easily filter out websites in these browsers that you don’t want to your kids to see. Browsers like Firefox are ever capable of recognizing parental controls that are already activated on your computer. These parental control restrictions are ideal for tween/teen ages. For pre-school age kids, there’re kid’s browsers like Grom Social and Kidzworld.

Operating Systems: There’s no question on parental control measures implemented in desktop OS’s like Windows and OS X. Make sure that you’re using the latest version of OS- for improved benefits.

Parenting is a tough job. And every parent needs help. There is software to keep an eye on teens. You can set up parental control over online watch, can limit how much time they spend online.

Here’s a complete list of best parental control software.

6 Safe and Smart Social Networking Websites for Kids

COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) is still live. It’s only one thing to say- Websites are not allowed to collect information from children under age 13. Yes, websites can impose age-based restrictions. But, what if kids can simply violate these controls?

It is estimated that more than 20,000 kids under 13 are trying to sign up Facebook every day. Evidently, children want to use social networks like Facebook that, give them access to cool games and funny videos. At the same time, parents have to be aware of the content in mainstream social sites- including adult content, identity theft and chance to get bullied.

You don’t have to think this as a problem at all. Otherwise, what’s the relevance of any of the kid-safe social networking websites? Yes, there’re many of such websites.

Here I’m presenting some social networking websites for kids that you can recommend to your kids without any hesitation.

Grom Social

Social Networking Websites for Kids

 

Zach Marks, an 11-year-old boy started this website in 2013. No Kid can’t join Grom Social without his/her parent’s concern (hats off to its mail verification).  Also, parents will get regular updates on their kids’ online activities. Any kid/teen under 15 can join Gram Social Community.

Kidzworld

Social Networking Websites for Kids

It’s not just a social network; there are video game reviews, movie reviews, celebrity news and much more – only the content appropriate to children. Kidzworld can be recommended for kids between 9 to 14.

Yoursphere

Social Networking Websites for Kids

 

Like Grom Social, parents have to involve in a verification process in Yoursphere for their kids’ account activation. Kids can create “spheres” and personal spaces based on their interest. Anyone under 18 can join this.

Fanlala

Social Networking Websites for Kids

 

As the name indicates, Fanlala offers an ideal entertainment platform for kids. There are separate sections for videos, music, interactive quizzes, tv shows, and movies. Credit card authorized parent account  is mandatory in Fanlala for kids under 13.

Franktown Rocks

Social Networking Websites for Kids

 

While considered as a fun multiplayer game, Franktown Rocks offers more- music, social networking, etc. Ideal for kids and tweens between 8-12.

Sweety High

Social Networking Websites for Kids

Designed for teen/tween girls. This fun social network has strong privacy measures also.

How Should I Limit My Child’s Screen Time?

Obviously, you would ask this question if you are the parent of an 8 year old child. Sorry, if you don’t want to. Let me say this first- I don’t recommend to take back your child’s entire screen access. With a small restriction on it, you can help your child to overcome some of it’s possible issues in the future.

But, how it should be?

It would be interesting to analyze the results of a recent TLF panel research conducted in the UK last year. The survey was about the opinion of parents on gadgets their kids using. The findings of the research are shown below.

  • 4/5 parents participated in the survey believe that gadgets and technology are good for children.
  • 28% of the participants said their child spent between 2-3 hours a day with gadgets.
  • For 37% of the parents, this time is 1-2 hours.
  • 38% of the 2-5 year olds own an android tablet while 32% own an iPad.
  • 1/3 of the 2-5 year old kids have a mobile phone.

Most of the parents who participated in the survey had either of these two reasons to tell

  • They want  their children to be tech-savvy
  • It is an easy way of entertaining children.

We can understand these reasons- it make sense. But, the parents should also get aware of the possible risks – when their kid spent too much time in front of screens.

The question is not about what they are watching. Let the program may have educational or social value, it’s all related to their health. Too much screens may

  • Cause sleep disruption to your child.
  • Induce psychological issues like anxiety and depression.
  • Result in obesity. (overweight)

AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has recommended certain guidelines for parents to limit their child’s screen time. According to them, tech gadgets or any such entertainment media should be avoided for infants under age 2. For older children, AAP’s recommendation is to allocation maximum 2 hours in a day.

In my opinion, children aged between 2-5 years should not have more than one hour of screen access. Up to teenage period, this limitation should not exceed more than 2 hours a day.

Parents can decide whether they have to be too harsh for making such a decision. In fact, there is no need for that. Setting up ground rules for screen access is not  much troublesome.

Here’s what you should do…

Minimize Accessibility

Disallowing the use of tech gadgets in your child’s bedroom must be your 1st priority. If your child used to watch TV or computer while eating, you can implement the same procedure here also.

Set Rules

Allocating a specific time to your child in front of screens, can bring good results. Or else, you can ask your child to select his/her time to watch TV/computer or play with gadgets.

Limit My Child's Screen Time

Also, you can help your child to choose TV programs suitable for them.

Remember, you can be your child’s role model – by reducing your own screen time.        

Give Alternatives

Instead of encouraging your child to spent time with gadgets or TV, you can indulge him Family board games or puzzles. Whenever you have time to play with your child, it is a good option.

These kinds of games aid well for ensuring family relationships also.

Limit My Child's Screen Time

Else what’s wrong with going out for a walk with your child?

What do you feel?

Follow us on Twitter @safewithtech

Kids Internet Safety – 5 Goofs That You Should Avoid to Guarantee This

Thank you guys – For giving the right kind of feedback for my last article. Sorry, I couldn’t go through each of those comments. Still, I know what most of you want me to write again – “kids internet safety tips”. Isn’t it?

Forgive me, if I am taking a wild guess. I promise, there is nothing complex in here. I just want to remind the basic tips and guidelines, which often people forgets. No matter, the volume of the topic I have to cover, I am ready to jump into it.

But, I don’t want to give you some lousy tips. Instead, just telling you not to make these goofs – as some of you already did.

Want to know “these”?

Here they are…

Goof 1#: Not Talking with your Kids on Internet Safety

 Talk with your Kids – anytime you are comfortable.

As a dependable friend, make them aware of the pitfalls of cyber world.

Keep an atmosphere for your children to approach you anytime, when they are in trouble.

Guidance should start from toddler stage, if they have access to mobile phone/ computer.

Don’t wait them to approach you, start conversation yourself at the right time.

Goof 2#:Not keeping your Child’s Computer on Public Area

 Is this a laborious task?

How many of you try this before?

Definitely, your child will listen you, if you talk wisely.

You only have to be patient throughout the course.

It will work.

Goof 3#: Not Knowing your Child’s Online Friends Circle

Off course, privacy is a matter of taste and right. Any counter? But, just explain, how precisely a 13-year old teen can determine the right connections in his/her online accounts?

Kids Internet Safety

 

Remembering Ryan Halligan (1983-2003) may change your mind.

I am sure, at least somebody of you might have heard his story.

Rest of you can google the name.

Anyway, I understand – There’s no point in blaming only you. Internet is an “open” world. Anyone can touch with any number people so easily. Your child needs to acquire skills to decide “so-called” right connections. Only, you can guide them for that.

One more- never pull the plug. Children deserve to know things in the proper way. Don’t ever let their curiosity leave them.

Giving this matter to you. Figure it out and make a point.

Goof 4#: Not Interacting with your Children Online

What about participating in a poll right now?

Just a question.

How many of you used to chat with your children online?

Taking too much time to replay?

Leave the numbers. Just want to know is there anything that forbid you for such a thing.

Nothing? Then be your child’s best online friend.

Goof 5#: Not Reserving a Specific Time for Your Child – to Stay Online

See, monitoring is not a case of proscription. The adverse effects of internet addiction is not so simple as many of you believe. When it comes to your children, it’s a whole different story. I don’t want to discuss those things again. Better aware of it.

It is the right time to think – a self-evaluation will not reach in vain. Once you analyze it, you’ll know the key points to take care first.

Get aware of the devices your child use – From webcams to internet enabled game consoles.

Allocate a specific time to your child – for not just chatting or browsing, whatever he/she likes to do online. Not forcefully, with steadily. Only your lovable words can make change.

Internet is not your rival, if you know how to handle it.  Realize this first – Children can learn many things much faster than adults. I think, it is quite a reasonable fact that is certainly true for cyber world. But, if they cannot realize it’s possible dangers, you are the person to get it fixed.

Right? I’d like to hear the word “Yup” from you.

A Tribute

Ryan Halligan was an American student, who committed suicide at the age of 13. According to all the credible sources, he was a victim of cyber bullying that in turn lead to his death.

Best Parental Control Guide:The Complete List of software

Hello, Readers!

In my last post, I covered a story around Cyberbullying. How Musseffect Los Angeles-based Dance Company is generating views for their video of inspirational stories of people healing and standing again on their feet.

Also about Rethink and Trisha Prabhu. We are thankful to her, she retweeted about this article on her twitter page.

parental control image 1

This post is about why parents should not hesitate to set parental control on kids and how to do that (that is more important because parents find themselves not so technically sound).

No doubt Child safety should be utmost priority for parents. Even if they have to be harsh sometimes.

We let our kids enjoy the freedom, let them climbing a tree, riding a bike, crossing the street and we progressively allow them surf web.

But sometimes web can be worse than the risks surrounds on other activities.

Here is why!

We have nasty websites out there.

You will never know with whom your child is communicating, what they are sharing (obviously you don`t want intruders to know that you are out for trip and house is empty).

In this online world communicating is not that easy then face to face. And your child can be a victim of too. Or at least alcoholic of Social media which will impact all round growth.

According to a research out of every 20 teens of generation X 16 are indulged in sexting and sharing their private photos online.

“They are going to be in their 20s, but their past isn`t going to spare them for adolescence.”

So what as a parent you should do?

Shall I spy on my child? Shall I ask for their passwords!

Muddling between thoughts.

What do you hear from every doctor you visit?

Prevention is better than cure.

This rule also holds well when it comes to protecting your child. You should not be reluctant in setting up some restriction. Monitoring their online presence. Talk with your children and tell them what to post and what not. Draw some boundaries.

Parenting is a tough job. And every parent needs help. There is software to keep an eye on teens. You can set up parental control over online watch, can limit how much time they spend online.

First let me tell you how you can set up parental control on computers.

Mac Machine:

You can restrict your kids from watching porn and can monitor their online activity.

 Go to Apple Menu

Choose system preferences and click on Accounts

Select your child Account

Hover to parental controls

You will be presented a series of preferences that you can block or monitor

Set your preferences

Windows Computer:

For Windows computer, parental controls can be accessed through the Control Panel. Look for User Accounts and Family Safety Control Panel. With Windows Vista, you’ll be given choices about web restrictions and also have the option of receiving reports on your child’s use of the computer. You can designate certain hours off-limits and block objectionable video games and programs.

These trick are not full proof because your kids are smarter than you. They will always found a way to change the settings or hack on your account. But you can always beat them by spending a little money on parental control software.

Parental control Software

“Desperate times desperate measures”

And parents are really desperate for keeping away their babies from bad habits. The built-in parental controls are insufficient as they can be easily hacked (no doubt gadget prince are smarter than us).

I asked my parents buddies what they are doing to keep an eye on teens. Got some interesting results on their practices and which software they are using for monitoring.

Not a surprise still most prefer freeware.

Here is a list of best parental control software. I am sure there are many out there and I will love to add them here. So ping me your best one in comments.

                      1. Free wares                                                   2. Paid wares

 

Free wares

K9 Web Protection

K9 Web Protection is a comprehensive web control and web filtering package. It allows to block sites according to their category pornography, drugs, hacking, gambling, hate sites and more. You can choose to block custom list of sites instantly or just choose the Monitor option, which allows to review the sites.

There are plenty of other option also- you can decide exactly at what time child can go online. NightGuard blocks online activities between 10 pm to 7 am. K9 is also associated with WebPulse cloud service a growing community who provide more than 6 billion web content ratings per day. And as soon as just one other user rates a site for phishing, spyware or malware, K9 Web Protection will immediately block it for everyone else, so helping you avoid even the very latest scams and threats.

Norton Family Safety

Norton Family Safety developed by Symantec Corporation provides some extraordinary feature. It provides

  • Web supervision
  • Social Network Supervision
  • Search Supervision
  • PC time supervision

Parents can see what kids are searching online, whom they are hanging out on Social media and even set time limits for how long their offspring use PC. Their Basic version is free, but you can have more control with the premium version.

Spyrix Free Keylogger

Spyrix Free Keylogger is a different way of monitoring your children. It is more a spy software than control. You can completely track your children activities. It allows to see keyboard entries, screenshots, webcam snapshots, sound recording, webcam video, clipboard value, web pages visited, and search queries.

The program keeps running in the background. Hiding the program is limited to press the close button which you can recover by a password. Only paid version allows to completely hide the wizard.

Paid Wares

Qustodio Parental Control 2015

Qustodio Parental Control 2015 can track your children`s online activity On PC, Mac, iOS, Android or Kindle devices. It includes just about every feature you might want. All the configuration and monitoring is managed through an Online dashboard that you can access from anywhere you want.

Qustodio default setting blocks websites matching any of ten categories which includes Gambling, Pornography, and Drugs. Advanced 19 categories are also available for parents who wants greater control. Alternatively you can activate email alert option whenever a child hits such undesirable sites (Useful for older kids). This payware can block secure (HTTPS) websites if they match a banned category.

McAfee Family protection

McAfee Family protection by McAfee can protect your kid from exposure to inappropriate content, social networking risks, strangers and other threats. You can block objectionable sites in up to 35 categories. Plus point is blocking of these sites are browser independent, so your child can`t access those sites by finding a less known browser.

The programs enable monitoring social activity by recording personal information whenever a sexually explicit content is posted. It blocks file sharing programs to prevent sharing nude or semi-nude photos. It can also block HTTPS sites which are having insecure content. Also, you can limit the time of your child spending on PC.

iBoss Home Parental control Router/ firewall

iBoss Home Parental control Router/ firewall is a hardware based parental control protects every device connected laptops, desktops, cellphones, tablets and gaming devices. Like others, it also allows to block inappropriate sites, can manage time spent on chat, instant messages, and gaming by the child.

It can allow to set predefined schedules for internet access by users. Prevents file downloads, viruses, spyware and malicious content from infecting your children`s computer. Additionally it allows to set different filtering rules for different family member computers.

That’s it for today. Keep on mind that any protection is incomplete. The world out there is filled with beauty and ugliness. And some predators may succeed in their ugly intention.

Best you can do is “Start the conversation with the child early and let the conversation going.”