What are massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, and are they safe for my kid?

Multiplayer games (technically called "massively multiplayer online games," or MMOGs, or MMOs) let kids play against their friends and other people they meet on a game's network. Some popular examples are World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Most of these games allow for instant messaging and conversation through headsets and can be great opportunities for teamwork and group problem solving.

The main things to keep an eye on are interactions with strangers, which can be part of the fun but also a potential risk; harassment from other players, which can take the form of bullying or even sexual harassment; and, finally, the amount of time these games require. It can be helpful to discuss each of these issues and talk about balancing gaming time with other activities before your kid starts playing MMOs.

You might want to take a look at the privacy settings the site offers, and talk to your kids about responsible online communication, including not sharing personal information. Read through the website's "parent section" if it has one.

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Kid, 12 years old

A lot of MMOs are really fun but you have to be carful. Most games take privacy and safety pretty seriously but if your child is younger it's not the best idea to let them play MMOs. If you think they are being harassed or they are spending too much time talking with strangers let them know and most games will have a report or block feature, make sure they are aware of that.
Parent of a 12, 14, and 16 year old written by brandonl

MMO's are fun because you play with or against real live people. It's much more dynamic than "canned" or computer-controlled characters. The biggest common threat involved in online games is the foul language that many players like to use. People on the internet tend to have a stunningly high tolerance for that kind of thing and will often use profanity or abusive language casually and continuously. Some games have language filters (which players like to cheat their way around) or you can have your youngster leave public chat channels. This will limit their social interaction, but they'll still be playing in the same game world - they just won't be seeing the stream of public conversation. Bear in mind that there are perfectly nice and helpful players online who are a lot like you and don't like the garbage-mouthed players either. It's possible to meet them and have them on a "friend" list. OR you can interact only with people you know in real life - that's lots of fun and limits interaction to trusted sources. Note that in games like World of Warcraft, characters can do things like strip down to their underwear or wear revealing costumes. Others may include bloody violence. Games like Minecraft or the newer Trove don't have that, but they can be played online, complete with chat. With those 2 games, your kids don't really "need" the online chat to have fun and enjoy the game. The more complex ones require conversation to plan and succeed, but you'll need to be aware of the risk. My advice: turn chat OFF for younger players and keep them on kid-friendly games. Expect older kids to use discretion and put vulgar players on their "ignore" list or else stick with friendly players only.
Teen, 14 years old written by Drath

Hi there! MMO's are fine. I recommend SWTOR as it's totally free to just play with limits (of course.) They're not very violent, sweary or sexual over all. SWTOR has some of all the above but it's minor (flirts, passionate kissing then fade to black etc). Watch other player's language if you wish, just disable chat, it's no biggy. Most MMO's have a swear blocker so it just becomes **** etc.Anyone 10+ should be good, though they may find it a bit hard and slow combat is just button pressing, usually just numbers.)