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How to Give Your Child or Teen a Happy, Healthy and Safe Gaming Experience This Christmas
by Mary Kay Hoal

Yoursphere.com

If your child has been eyeing your tablet and thinks of it as their go-to gaming device, you should forget about the Xbox One and PS4, or games like Grand Theft Auto 5, Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts and consider these alternatives:

For Toddlers and Younger Kids:

Make sure the tablet that you allow your child to play with is equipped with a screen protector and bumpers like the ones you can find on Amazon. Once you've protected your devices from the inevitable Oops, I dropped it, Mom" or sticky fingers, I recommend you start out with games like A Day in the Zoo for your toddler, or Angry Birds for a slightly older child (though Angry Birds is great for all ages). If your kids like to move, consider motion-based games, like Just Dance 2014 for the Wii and WiiU. All of these games make it easy for everyone to have fun.

Six to Twelve:

At this point, your children should have refined their hand-eye coordination skills enough to master simple gamepad controls. For the younger kidlets, particularly boys, Skylanders is a great game that allows toy figurines to be placed on a pad that's connected to your console. Disney's new title, Infinity, is another great example of this new gaming trend. If your child owns a Nintendo 3DS, games like Pokemon X (or Y) and Animal Crossing: New Leaf are great choices. The point is, there are a host of these types of games available to your child - it's just a matter of looking at the description and ESRB rating and then determining if it's right for your child.

Other great games to consider:

  • Lumosity - Brain games designed to improve memory, attention and problem solving skills.
  • Super Mario 3D World
  • Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus
  • Minecraft - Combines construction and action, and is sure to occupy hours of your child's time in a beneficial way.

A Bit about Facebook Games
Just because they have games, doesn't mean they're okay for your child to play. In fact, it is against Facebook's Terms of Service for children (12 and under) to have a membership. That being said, at the end of the day the important point to drive home is that allowing your child to lie about their age in order to join sends the wrong message. Plus, Facebook is full of inappropriate content and people that your children shouldn't ever be exposed to. Youth-friendly social networks like Yoursphere.com, where there are 100s of games to play, were made for the specific purpose of entertaining, educating and engaging your child in an age-appropriate online environment.

Teens:

It boils down to two things on the teen front: the maturity of your child, and your recognition that age ratings are there for a reason.

It goes without saying, but just because your child is 13 doesn't mean he/she is mature enough to handle the adult content (nor should they be!) that comes wrapped up in adult intended social media sites - and the same goes for video games. Don't take the easy way out and buy your teen Grand Theft Auto V or Call of Duty just because all their friends have it. Do your research and find games that are rated T for Teen on a multitude of platforms, including Xbox, Playstation and PC. A quick stop at your local GameStop or Best Buy might surprise you.

For more information on great games and apps, visit commonsensemedia.org.

Mary Kay Hoal

About the Author:
Mary Kay Hoal is a nationally recognized expert on children's social media and online safety. She is the founder and president of Yoursphere Media Inc., which focuses on the family and publishes the kids' social network Yoursphere.com - sign your kids up today! Mary Kay also offers parents Internet-safety information at YoursphereForParents.com. She has been profiled on CNN, BBC, E!, Fox & Friends, TIME, Lifetime TV and many others. Mary Kay is a contributor to ABC's 20/20 as their family Internet-safety expert. For more information visit www.marykayhoal.com.

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