Monitoring Kids Video Games and Online Media

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Video games and the Internet play a big role in our children's lives. The new technology evolves quickly and parents have to keep up!  I am pretty comfortable with tech stuff, as I am pretty geeky but I find myself intimidated by some of high tech gadgets and games.

I wrote about my discussion with Heather Snavely of Microsoft's Xbox 360. Heather gave me some good guidelines for monitoring kids playing video games and surfing the web. She recommends that families have a plan or list of guidelines for how a game system or computer should be used.

Parental guidelines should include:

    * Limiting screen time for your kids.
    * Selecting age-appropriate games or content.
    * Limiting access to who your kids can connect to online.

The Xbox website has some ideas for creating a family PACT or family plan for using video games and computers.

Healthy Gaming Guide

Playing video games is supposed to be a relaxing recreational activity. Things to consider when playing video games (or sitting at a computer):

    * Position: Make sure your position is not encouraging discomfort.
    * Breaks: Stepping away at regular intervals is important.

Position Yourself While Playing

    * Choose a chair that provides support for your lower back.
    * Keep your wrists straight while holding and using controllers.
    * Avoid bending your wrists up, down, or to the sides.

Take Breaks and Change Tools

The length and frequency of breaks that are right for you depend on the type of activity you are doing. Stopping the activity and relaxing is one way to take a break.

Changing the tools used to play a game another method for taking a break. For example, use the controller pad instead of the control stick.

Tools for Families

Since my discussion was with a representative of Microsoft's Xbox 360, the family controls listed below are specific to the Xbox game system. However, there are parental controls for every game system and for Internet use! If you don't own an Xbox, look for similar features and controls.

The Xbox 360 Family Settings allow you to restrict access to games based on the rating as well as control access to the online Xbox LIVE service:

    * Manage who your child can communicate with on Xbox LIVE.
    * Decide who can see your child's gamer profile and online status.
    * Limit your child's exposure to content created by other members of Xbox Live.
    * Set limits on console play time using the Family Timer.     

You can create personal settings for each child, which applies to their Xbox Live account even when they use it outside the home! I did this to my children's profiles after talking to Heather and my teen daughter was sour!

Read more about Parental Controls on the Xbox website. Parents have to keep ahead of the technology curve!

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