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What Are Some Basic Gaming and Social Media Rules for Elementary Schoolers?

Text: Q&A

Young kids may not be on social media yet, but at this age, they start to interact with others in online worlds. Such video games, apps, and websites (like Animal Crossing or Minecraft) are closed environments where kids can explore, meet friends, and let their imaginations run free.

One challenge for parents and caregivers is helping kids balance time spent playing in these online worlds -- which can draw them in for long periods -- and time spent offline. And, even though online worlds have rules about behavior, some kids find ways around them. It's important to talk with children when you first introduce these games about how to avoid and respond to harmful behavior.

Kids younger than 6 probably shouldn't play in virtual worlds. If your kids can't yet read or write, they'll be frustrated in online worlds. Instead, look for preschool games that were designed for children this age.

Set up accounts together. By creating usernames and passwords together, you can walk your kids through the basics of safe and appropriate online behavior.

Make sure your children never share their passwords. Kids often give other children their passwords for help in a game. Explain that giving away a password is not safe and can be harmful for your child.

If you wouldn't let your children have unsupervised play dates, don't let them go online by themselves. Remember, the social skills they bring to online worlds are the same ones they have (or don't have) in real life.

Keep the devices in a central place. This lets you or other family members guide your child as they play online.

Review the apps and sites yourself. Make sure you check out apps and sites before you let your kids use them. Don't settle for the most popular apps, games, and sites. Look around for ones that appeal to your kid's interests or have an educational angle.

Set time limits. Make sure online play is balanced with offline play and other activities that are good for your kid's physical, emotional, and mental health.

Talk about how to behave online. Teach your kids a good rule of thumb: If they wouldn't say something to someone's face, they shouldn't say it online.

Show kids how to report misbehavior. If kids ever see something that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset, sad, or worried, let them know they should tell you or a trusted adult. Show your kids how to report inappropriate content or block other users. Explain that this is a healthy way to keep games and apps safe and fun for everyone.

Talk about money and what it means to your family. Some sites rely on users to buy extras. Explain your family values around spending money online. Be clear about what you expect your child to do when they come across an in-game purchase.

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