Children and MMO Gaming

With the controversy surrounding violence in video-games still a talking point of the uneducated media I thought I’d take a look into young people and MMO games. Most MMO players have probably come across MMO games designed for the younger audience, such as social giant Club Penguin and RPG legend Wizard101, but how do parents gauge the damage potential of online titles?

Personally I feel console and offline games are far easier to judge as these are rated purely on the content of the game itself. With the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) often refusing to rate social interaction in online play, there’s quite often nothing for parents to consider before allowing their children to dive into the MMO world.

As a father myself I don’t really find myself concerned over my sons activity online. There’s such a wealth of information available for the younger generations and there are literally thousands and thousands of educational games, with many being implemented into the school curriculum. Certain browsers and helpful programs can be combined to limit a child’s activity to only selected websites, removing all of the bigger concerns expressed by parents. However, these concerns emerge again once a child is old enough to work their way around the parents careful security.

So once a child has the smarts to undo all of their parents hard work, how do we gauge what is suitable online? One parent may consider Runescape child-friendly enough for their young child, while another may feel the violence and explicit in-game chat can be too much for a young mind to handle. Every parent has different rules and restrictions that they enforce on their child, but in the same light every child is different and capable of handling different things.

Children reach different levels of maturity at different stages as they grow up, prompting many parents to judge the actions of another based on their own child’s current state of maturity. I’ve met 10yr old kids that can hold a full conversation with me for hours, while I’ve met others that still struggle to express words and constantly get frustrated. Neither is right or wrong, but you cannot deny the different mindsets of each child. I won’t allow my son to play any online game that has free chat features. Plenty offer restricted chat where younger gamers can only use predetermined messages, but I wouldn’t judge another parent that would allow a child of similar age to play something a little less controlled.

So what’s acceptable for the majority of parents when it comes to younger children getting involved in MMO games? Kids of all ages enjoy video-games and I personally don’t consider it to be fair to restrict my son from playing when he sees me enjoying them on occasion. What do you think the most concerning aspect of online play is from a parents perspective? The violence programmed into the majority of RPG titles or the loosely moderated chat?

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