Is it age-appropriate?
Don't judge a game by its cover. While the pictures on the box can sometimes tip parents off, they may not always tell the whole story. It is important for parents to check a game's age rating as well as its content descriptors, which indicate the types of content that contributed to the rating.
Ratings are assigned by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which is a non-profit self-regulatory body that gives parents the tools to make informed decisions about the suitability of video games and mobile apps. In addition to checking the age rating and content descriptors on the game box, shoppers can conveniently use the ESRB mobile app - available on Apple, Android and Windows devices - to find a game's Rating Summary. These offer a more detailed and comprehensive look at the nature of the game, including specific examples of the content parents would want to know about.
Are there interactive elements?
If an online game or mobile app includes elements such as sharing user-provided personal information, broadcasting a user's location or allowing players to interact through chat or share user-generated content, parents may want to know before letting their children play it. Just as parents would monitor whom their children are interacting with in school, it is important that they monitor their children's online acquaintances and what information they are sharing. That's why the ESRB recently added a new component to its rating system, called Interactive Elements. These notices - which are accessible at ESRB.org or via ESRB's mobile app - advise parents when an online game or mobile app has these types of interactive aspects, giving parents a way to make sure their children's experience is as secure as it is age-appropriate.
Do you know the game?
Some of the big blockbuster games on the market are rated 'T for Teen' or 'M for Mature.' Parents should judge a game not solely on its popularity but on its age-appropriateness as well. Checking the reviews of games, which sometimes include video highlights, and discussing content with game store associates or others who have played it before can also be helpful in the decision-making process. Once a game comes into the home, parents should play it with their child for a while or monitor their child's play to ensure that the game is suitable.
Ratings are not the end-all decider when it comes to choosing games, especially since parents know what's best for their children. But they can be a very helpful guide. By bearing these tips in mind, parents and other gift givers can ensure the video games they buy this year are just right for the family.
For more information on game ratings, visit www.ESRB.org.