By the start of 2020, we were already spending more time online than ever before. Once the pandemic hit, many of us doubled or even tripled the time we spent on the internet. Further, the restrictions we put on our children have largely loosened up — meaning, family members are online more than we ever thought we’d allow. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, as the internet has kept us in touch with friends and family. Nonetheless, as with all things, it’s all about balance.
Online safety is something that Prostasia Foundation has talked about before. It’s an important topic to revisit, however, particularly for parents who are well-versed in safety controls and measures to take to keep young web surfers and gamers out of harm’s reach.
As a parent, it’s your job to take precautions before allowing your kids access to new game systems, online networks, or even titles. Start by getting yourself familiar with the video game rating authority ESRB. Xbox explains that the Internet Software Rating Board assigns one of six rating symbols. These range from Early Childhood games that are appropriate for children as young as 3 to Adults Only, which are often sexual or violent in nature.
More than just ratings, parents should also be familiar with privacy settings and whether or not their children have the ability to download third-party gaming content, which can contain viruses and malware. Games that offer audio interaction are another concern, and parents should know at all times who their children are talking to. Ideally, you will set up your child’s system so that they can only communicate with those contacts whom you approve.
Are all game systems created equally?
When it is time to invest in a gaming system, know that not all systems are great for all ages. While the vast majority of gaming consoles do offer family-friendly games, the Nintendo Switch is typically considered best for young players. Not only does it feature the Super Mario, Pokémon, and Legend of Zelda series, it also offers a vast selection of parental controls and can be played on your home television or as a handheld gaming console.
Older kids (and adults) may enjoy the PlayStation 5, which Digital Trends chooses as the best overall console. The PS5 and its predecessors, along with the Xbox series of gaming consoles, tend to feature games more appropriate for those that don’t mind a bit of heavy action, gore, and fantasy violence. Demon’s Souls is a great example of a fantasy game that may be too intense for younger players. While the visuals are undeniably stunning, intense action sequences that include swordplay and dragon fire might scare young gamers.
PC gaming is also popular, and it can be a great segue into the IT world for older kids and teenagers. Minecraft modding is a great example here. Users can create their own types of blocks and landscapes or alter the game’s core functions to create a fully playable world.
Downloadable family time
Game time can easily be turned into family time if you choose the right games. A few of the best for families with kids of all ages include:
- Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe features all of your beloved favorites, including Super Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Bowser. It allows up to four players to share a single screen and up to 12 competitors in a race online.
- Carnival Games. Carnival Games is, as the name suggests, a game based on the midway. You can create your own avatar and up to four members of your family can play together.
- Among Us. Among Us is an online cooperative game that pits up to 10 users against one another in a race to uncover the “Imposter,” whose single goal is to kill the other crew members aboard your stranded spaceship.
A heavy load
With so many family members utilizing the internet at once, speed can be a problem. If you’re all using a wireless network, streaming more than one device at once — whether you’re gaming, watching Netflix, or working — can strain your system’s bandwidth. There are a few ways to speed things up, however, including switching to a low-latency network built for gaming, moving your router closest to the devices you use the most, and, if you are utilizing a gaming PC, connecting it via an ethernet cable instead of a wireless signal. Perhaps most importantly, replacing your old router if it’s more than a year old.
Video gaming is more popular than ever, and it’s a great way to escape from the stress we’ve all grown so intimate with the last year. But as with all things, moderation is key. Even if you are allowing more time online, you’ll still want to pay attention to safety measures for young kids and teens alike. Fortunately, video games are a great way to bond with your family while social distancing for as long as it takes for the panic of the pandemic to subside.