The internet touches all aspects of your children’s life. If you search for an unknown word in a dictionary, your children are more likely to use dictionary.com. Where you use the phone, they use instant messaging. An even greater difference can be found in the way they play. Where the games of your parents’ generation may have involved a game board, cards, or, in its more sophisticated form, a console system, the games your kids play online can be much more complex. They seek gold, expand empires, fight dragons and aliens alone or with tens, hundreds, even thousands of their playmates. All of this creates a confusing mix of names, places, jargon and jargon that can leave you with no idea what your kids are actually doing and a vague sense of unease that some of these may not be good for them.
What is appropriate for your children is a decision that only you can make. How much violence they are exposed to, how long they spend in front of a screen, and how much contact they have with faceless strangers so common on the web are questions you have to face and ultimately decide for your family. . While we can’t help you make these tough decisions, we can certainly help you get the information you need to better understand your children’s hobbies, both to make informed judgments about what they should and shouldn’t do, and to help you achieve another part of their life that once looked like a kind of puzzle box.
The simplest type of online game is the Flash or Java based type of game which generally runs in the web browser. This type of game tends to be relatively simple compared to the independent games discussed below. Common examples include Bejeweled, Zuma, and Diner Dash. These games are almost universally single-player and don’t have the kind of violent or adult content that keeps parents up at night. If they were movies, they would be rated G, and perhaps the casual game would extend to PG. If this is the kind of game your kids enjoy, first feel relief. Then try the game. Many of these games can be a lot of fun for even the most casual gamer. Some, like Bookworm, even have some real educational content. These games can be an opportunity to bond and learn as much as throwing a baseball in the backyard, and have the added bonus of having your kids sit and play with you.
FPS: Find something to shoot.
FPS stands for First Person Shooter. I’m the first person as it could be a story. That is, the player sees the world through the eyes of a single character and interacts with the game environment as if it were that character. The shooter comes from the main goal of most of these games, shooting whoever is the bad guy. FPS games are among the most popular online. Common examples include Doom, Battlefield: 1942, and the X-Box Halo game. From a parent’s point of view, these games can be a cause for concern. They vary widely in terms of realism, degree of violence, language and general attitude. The only way to get a good idea of content issues is to look at the game in particular. If your kids don’t want you to see them playing, fire up the game yourself when they’re not around. There is a noticeable variation in how violent and personal FPS content can be from game to game. The single player portion of Halo, for example, has players battling alien invaders with heavily energy-powered weapons and minimal realistic human suffering. In contrast, WWII themed games tend to go out of their way to show realistic violence. Given the theme, this is appropriate for play, but may not be for your kids. Online gambling is a potentially greater concern. The goal of online FPS games is almost always to kill other players. While some games have various modes where this is a secondary objective, they all give the player a weapon and encourage him to use it on characters that represent other people.