How to make sure your child is safe playing Xbox or PlayStation Live

Q: My son plays massive multi-player games online with other kids through the Xbox. I see a lot of creepy gamertags. Should I be concerned?

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A: Anytime a child connects online, parents need to be vigilant. Even though most parents connect computer chat rooms and social media with online predators, kids involved in multiplayer games on their Xbox or PlayStation also need to understand the risks.

If your child uses the earphones and chat option on the gaming console, you may not be aware that language can be profane. More than just bad words, however, chats during the game can enable others to encourage a relationship, share personal identifying information, and make inappropriate or sexual advances.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is 30-something to consider when you allow your younger tween or teen to play an interactive game, especially if the game is rated M for Mature.

How can you keep kids safe without pulling the plug? Start by sticking closely to the ESRB ratings, then try these tips:

1 Select a gamertag carefully

A child who identifies their name (DizzyLizzy123), school (CoxHighNo1) or creates suggestive tags (likeshotguys) may invite trouble.

2Approve friends

Some gaming consoles allow you to approve the friends. This means Johnny only can play online with the friends you approve. Check your gaming console for other parental controls that can set boundaries for play times and chat options.

3Listen to chats

You may be surprised at the language, even if you’ve approved the players. Many games can be played without much compromise by turning off the chats. Don’t hesitate to put other players on mute if language is inappropriate.

4Talk to kids

Let kids know that personal information is not to be given to strangers-and that advances, flirting or vulgar sexual talk should be reported.

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