TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) – Parents often use the Entertainment Software Rating Board's video game rating system to know if games are age-appropriate for their children. But some parents were shocked to find out games with ESRB ratings of "E" for "everyone" or "T" for "teen" could still be exposing their children to racial slurs, homophobia and x-rated content.
Kevin Roberts, Cyber Addiction Counselor and author of the book Cyber Junkie, says when users go online, all ESRB ratings go out the window. Game makers often include language to indicate that online interactions are not rated by the ESRB on game packaging and warnings before a user goes online.
Roberts says kids can experience "incredible levels of profanity, racial epithets [and] homosexually oriented epithets."
"We're talking 8, 9, 10, 11 year old kids who are getting exposed to this regularly," said Roberts.
Internet safety expert Parry Aftab says kids can even be bullied while playing online video games.
"They may trash talk, they may be calling you names, they may steal their passwords. Or a lot of them may gang up on one online; not because it's a good strategic win, but to hurt the other person," said Aftab.
Aftab says game companies are actively working to combat the problem. For example, Microsoft has an "Xbox Live enforcement squad" which hunts out cyber bullies and online sexual predators.
Still, Aftab says parental involvement is key. "Don't let your kid go to his bedroom, close his door, and sit there and play all night. That's crazy. You have no idea what's going on, who's saying what," said Aftab.
A better strategy would be to have kids take off the headphones and turn on the speakers, so parents can hear what is being said.
Also, parents should encourage their children to take a proactive approach to bullying by blocking users who harass them.
Microsoft says protecting their customers has always been a top priority, and that they have invested significant resources to monitor violations.