Brauns Law March 2019


LEVEL UP How to Help Your Teen Make Their Choice

Did you know that outside of Hollywood, more movies and TV shows are made in Atlanta than anywhere else in the United States? It’s pretty cool to see our city become such a big player in the world of entertainment, but I have to wonder if we should be getting into video games instead. Last year, video games eclipsed television as the most profitable and popular form of entertainment in the world. I grew up playing video games myself and heard many warnings that “games will rot your brain.” I’m happy to report my brain is still fully intact. That’s because video games can actually be pretty helpful. As Jane McGonigal points out in her book “Reality Is Broken,” gaming can help kids improve problem-solving skills and self- confidence. But games have changed a lot since the heyday of “Pac-Man” and “Super Mario Bros.” Today, parents should worry less about video games rotting our kids’ brains and more about the rise of online multiplayer games. Games like “Madden,” “Fortnite,” “Street Fighter,” and “Splatoon,” are popular among kids of all ages, and these games are have online modes where kids can play with friends and strangers. Online gaming presents all sorts of social risks that gamers in my day never had to deal with. And with games being more popular than ever, it’s time that parents gain the tools to help kids navigate this new world. Learn What They’re Playing This is important in every area of media. As parents, it’s our jobs to learn about the

games are kids are playing. The Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) provides movie-style ratings for all titles, as well as descriptions of what you’ll find in the gameplay. Looking up the game on Wikipedia or YouTube can also provide valuable insight beyond the box art. appropriate for your kids, you still have to worry about what strangers on the internet may say over chat. Online voice and text chats are notoriously toxic places, full of bigoted comments, bad attitudes, and bullying. The best move is to disable the public chat feature for young children. Chatting with friends is a big appeal of online games, so if your kids want to set up a private chat with their friends, you can configure it so nobody else can enter. This middle ground allows for the positives of a shared online experience while limiting the negatives. Monitor Microtransactions Here’s something we didn’t have to worry about when I was gaming! Back in the “old days,” once you were out of quarters, you were done playing “Donkey Kong.” Today, many games have in-game purchases, called microtransactions. At best, these add-ons are optional content that have a minimal impact on the gamer’s experience. At worst, they’re a rapacious pay-to-play tactic designed specifically to obtain more money from players. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about kids spending thousands of dollars on in-game purchases. It’s shockingly easy to do, so it’s important to keep financial Disable Public Chat Even if you decide a game itself is

information out of your kids’ hands. Most games will allow you to add funds to a player’s account piecemeal or connect a bank account directly. If your kids have to do microtransactions, I recommend the first option. That way, your child will never spend a fortune behind your back. Practice Safe Online Behavior The same tips that apply to every area of our digital lives also apply to gaming. A username like “RainbowQuartz2k19”or “wolf359” may sound dumb, but it protects your kids’ anonymity. All online accounts should have strong passwords, and kids should never respond to unsolicited messages, period. Teaching your kids these tactics early will benefit them for the rest of their lives. I’m too busy to be logging onto online games every night, but I recognize that this is a pastime my kid and a lot of their peers may enjoy. Whether you think it’s a revolutionary new form of entertainment or a nonsensical pursuit, parents owe it our kids to learn a little about online gaming and help keep them safe. -David Brauns


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