In order for gaming and the internet to be positive experiences you need to set rules that will protect your child and take certain steps to ensure your child is safe.
As a concerned parent:
1. Know the risks posed by video games and the internet. Even if a game is rated as safe on the box, very often, downloadable and alterations to the game online turn the game dangerous. Ratings are not based on alterations and download. So educate yourself everyday.
2. Use the US Department of Education’s Parents Guide to the Internet (http://www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/internet/index.html) and other websites like Child Safety on the Information Highway.
3. Set down strict gaming and internet rules. Monitor the sites your child uses and learn how to use parental controls offered by Windows and other systems.
4. Play the video games yourself so that you have hands on experience.
5. Allow the children to play video games with only known players. If you are unsure of what kids may be doing at a friend’s house, drop in unexpectedly and check on them.
6. Gaming consoles like Xbox 360 have settings parents can use to protect their kids. Read about these at the Xbox 360 website. Read the Xbox code of conduct http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/codeofconduct.htm.
7. Ensure that the kids understand they must never reveal personal information on the internet and that they must use “dummy” identities for play. Sit down with the kids and create fun ids for them.
8. Ensure that the kids do not use live chats or forums online . This would of course depend on how old the children are. Befriend your child/children so that they will come to you when they encounter strange happenings or foul language. Win the trust of the children.
9. Be in touch with other parents and exchange information on video games. Networking works well and several PTAs even have websites that give tips on video gaming.
10. Play time according to child development specialists must be a reward and not a right. Set down the video gaming time say 30 mins thrice a week or everyday depending on your personal choices. Do not permit gaming to be an addiction or obsession. If you notice any behavioral changes and you feel its gaming seek expert advice/help.
The responsibilities of parenting are constantly changing and are more demanding with developments in technology. Parents need to stay young and have a fingertip on developments in gaming, online activities, child safety and more.