The family that plays together stays together, but as every parent knows, you can’t always be around when the kids want to enjoy a quick game of Madden or Super Smash Bros. Video games have grown over the past few decades to the point where they now encompass a wide variety of genres, themes, and audiences. While for a long time the classic image of a “gamer” was a young, early-mid-teen boy, the fact of the matter is the average age of the video game audience is now 31 years old, about 52% are female, and, increasingly, much of what’s available on store shelves and for download reflects this. In order to make sure your children are playing the games meant for them, it’s important to monitor their gaming habits to ensure their safety. There’s also a pretty good chance, given the current average audience for games, that you’re a parent who owns a console which is also used by your children, and you want to be sure that the mature games you may enjoy — say, Call of Duty or The Last of Us — and access to things like online stores and chat functions are restricted to your kids.
First and foremost, always remember to look at the ratings on games; in the US, the ESRB is the ratings board that determines the appropriate audience for a game, and sets a rating much like the MPAA does for films. The ESRB has an easy to use website, www.esrb.org, where you can look up ratings by title and break down what different content tags mean. They also have a mobile app that allows the same function, so you’ll be able to quickly recognize what ratings and content warnings mean, and whether they’re appropriate for your child. Beyond that, making sure consoles are set up correctly to enable (or disable) certain functions — like web browsing, voice chat, and store purchases — is the other crucial aspect to ensuring their security.
Here is an easy-to-follow guide covering each of the major gaming consoles currently on the market, and their parental settings.
Select your console: