October 5, 2020

Tips and lessons for fun, positive family experiences

For those who may have been watching the docuseries High Score on Netflix, you may be enjoying the nostalgia of arcade classics like Pacman, the rise and fall of Atari, and the birth of the NES and other systems. Video games have grown into a 10+ billion-dollar industry with 244 million people playing games for 5-15 hours a week.

Like many other aspects of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we look at video games and the experiences our children have with them. Although we instinctively may think of the negative, like bullying and hackers, we sometimes forget that video games can also be associated with learning, socializing and team building.

The increase in screen time during the last six months leaves many parents asking questions like: How can you make sure that your kids strike a healthy balance between screen time for school vs. fun? and How can you help them keep it safe and positive while gaming? Although we have our recommended list of safety tips, we had a chance to sit down with Jill McClenahan and Julie Kohler from Microsoft’s safety team as part of our Managing Family Life Online webinar series, where we dug into all aspects of gaming with lots of tips and advice shared.

A few interesting takeaways:

  • Gaming creates more than just eye candy; it creates social interactions during a time of isolation. Although at times you may think of gaming as a distraction to your kids or to serve as a delay in interruptions from video calls while working from home – the reality is gaming platforms have helped fill the gap in keeping kids connected while they are unable to physically be near one another.
  • Microsoft has seen a huge uptick in usage during COVID-19. Multiplayer gaming has seen large spikes in usage as teens and adults alike look to online platforms for human connections. Over the last six months alone 23 million new friendships have been forged across the Xbox platform.
  • The gap between gaming and social media continues to close. With gamification across many social platforms and gaming platforms increasingly offering chat functionality, the worlds are colliding, and you should be aware of all functionality before your kids tackle a new game or console. Especially during times of unrest and national interest, people look to share (and sometimes overshare) with each other and having a firm grasp on where your kids communicate is paramount.
  • Security is taken seriously at Microsoft. Many wrongfully think gaming platforms are created and pushed for profit with no oversight. That is far from the case with the Xbox team.
    • – The team’s push for responsible gaming includes a combination of leveraging both Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) technology and human arbitrators to review content and commentary to block both spam and negative and hateful content.
    • – Microsoft also recently released the Xbox Family Settings app. The app, which began public testing in May, helps parents to control children’s screen time and spending habits, to filter content and to manage their friends, among a host of other helpful capabilities. For a full review and functionality, see this recent piece in CNET.
  • Security is also a shared responsibility. Although providers like Microsoft have teams in place and processes in the platform, you cannot rely on that as the sole gatekeeper. It is still integral for parents to participate and review what is available to their kids. Some games, such as Fortnite, will have functionality and offerings that are outside of the Microsoft platform. So, in addition to ensuring you have scheduled age appropriate profiles for every user in your home, you should also review the full offerings of individual games to make sure there are no loopholes.
  • Parents & kids should play together and learn from each other. You may think you are ‘all thumbs’ or ‘too old’ for a particular game, but the reality is playing together will not only help you understand why your kids flock to a certain game, but give you better insight into how they may use it. As much as your kids may rely on you to teach them life lessons, they also enjoy the rare times they can teach you as well. Let them show you how to do everything from using the console itself to the intricacies of a game.

To hear more on these topics, listen to the full conversation with Julie & Jill, please visit:  Online Gaming Safety & Microsoft® Xbox

Next up: Shaunelle Curry, founder & CEO of Media Done Responsibly and Aleeyah Ward, Student Intern, will discuss with us that while social media can be used to cause harm and sow division, it is more critical than ever to focus on all the good that can happen through it. Kids deserve to learn how to use social apps in ways that can help themselves, others, and the world. Join our webinar on Oct. 7th to hear about effective ways to use social media to support the causes you and your kids care about. More details in our Webinars page.

Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens

Lynette Owens is Vice President of Global Consumer Education & Marketing at Trend Micro and Founder of the Internet Safety for Kids and Families program. With 25+ years in the tech industry, Lynette speaks and blogs regularly on how to help kids become great digital citizens. She works with communities and 1:1 school districts across the U.S. and around the world to support online safety, digital and media literacy and digital citizenship education. She is a board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, an advisory committee member of the Digital Wellness Lab, and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day.

Follow her on Twitter @lynettetowens.