I have a strict policy in my house. No MMO games, or rather -- no MMOs that are actually enabled online.
I know, some of you parents and grandparents are saying, “What? What’s an MMO?”
MMO or MMOG (which also falls under MMORPG) stands for Massive Multiplayer Online, Massive Multiplayer Online Game and Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, respectively. In a nutshell, it just means you are connecting with hundreds, thousands or even millions of other people out there playing the same game. In this type of game, you can normally see each other in some form of virtual construct and help, attack or conquer each other.
Most of it is pretty benign and fun. However, as with any form of interaction (online or in person), there are those who choose to use it for malicious purposes -- purposes like bullying, using profanity, stalking or preying on the innocent.
My children are currently under the age of 10, so it’s relatively easy to put a parental ban on these kinds of games. Many people have asked me, “What kind of MMO games could there really be for children out there?”
You might be surprised to know there are quite a few. IOS has tons of games in the app store that allow children to play with each other -- Minecraft, Clash of Clans and Beach Bomb, just to name a few. As a rule, I always test the games my children want to play, before they play them, and it is not surprising that most game companies try and implement some form of interaction with other gamers online. It allows the gaming company to have an unpredictable element that keeps their players hooked and allows people to socialize.
Now I’m not saying I don’t allow my children to play with other children. I do. But that play is controlled. I have “LAN” parties for my kids and let them invite over multiple friends with their own iPads, Kindles, etc., and they get on my Wi-Fi and I isolate them to only the local network within my home. They have a blast -- we order pizza and they get to play and create and attack their friends in the games, and I have control over who they are talking to, playing with and what they are doing with their time.
It may sound like I am a control freak, but I prefer to think of it as smart parenting. Here’s why.
I have had detailed discussions with the FBI and other state and local law enforcement, and if you have read my other two articles about online child safety (“Your Child: A Sheep Among the Wolves” and “How to Handle Your Child's Social Media Disaster”) you will know that I always state it’s better to monitor than block. Kids want to play with their friends and want to socialize -- and they should -- but just as you’d want to know whose house they are visiting and how to reach them there, you should also want to know who they are playing with and who can reach them through their activities.
I understand that not everyone is as tech-savvy as I am, and there are parents who might not even know how to launch a game, much less play it. So here’s my advice to parents, when your child comes to you and says, “Mommy, can you install _________ ?” do the following:
- Ask them why they want to play it. Most of the time, the answer will be, “I saw _________ playing it” or “I played it on ________ iPad”, etc., which is fine as long as you approve of said friend.
- Research the game. Doing a simple search online will usually pull up a Wiki page, a vendor page or something that can tell you more details about the game.
- If something doesn’t make sense or you don’t understand something, contact someone who might, or feel free to even contact me on my website. I’m always happy to help parents if I can.
- Make sure that you have in-app purchases disabled (usually can be done in the settings of mobile devices). There’s nothing worse than having to dispute a charge on your credit card for “shark food” from some iTunes game.