While it may seem surprising that more parents were concerned with exposure to inappropriate themes rather than time spent playing, it must be remembered that the sample of respondents had children spanning a large age range. Thus, while time spent online is probably the main risk for college students, parents of younger children are often more concerned with exposure to adult themes.
Overall, the respondents felt that there were more benefits than risks associated with online games, although the risks are clearly not negligible. On the whole, many respondents noted that being involved with kids mitigated risks while boosting the benefits. And as we've seen before, parents can play with kids productively.
In talking to parents and teenagers during my Qwest trips, involvement and setting up expectations are the two themes I stress. We've done informal surveys at high schools and it's often surprising how many young teenagers have internet-enabled computers in their own room without any clear rules or limits about internet use. Whether it's spending too much time online or misunderstanding the nature of online relationships, parental involvement is the key to mitigating many of the risks present when kids play online games.
There be a typo on page 4:
"The remaining RISKS [Emphasis added] were described by 5% or fewer of the respondents and I will list them briefly here:
Math Skills (5%)
Family Time (5%)
Setting Long Term Goals / Deferred Gratification (5%)
Neat stuff! My Dad is 59. I'm 38. My son is 13. We've been playing MMOs together -- three generations, occasionally in three different regions, for about five years. (SWG, COH, WoW and Wurm Online) The internet in general, and MMOs in our case, helps to keep our 21st century family in closer contact. I'm _way_ more worried about my son not getting out and running around enough than I am about predators and inappropriate content. It was interesting to see what other parents were thinking.
My experience in World of Warcraft with my 21 year old son, has been invauable. After worrying about too much of his time spent ingame, he created me a character himself. Interesting, an undead priest( I am the mom here).
I was so impressed with his conduct and values ingame, as he is a guild leader. He had created, what he called, a "family guild", with no bad language or rudeness tolerated. These are a nice group of people, who seem to actually care about one another, both ingame and out.
It is still a bit distressing to watch your child go thru social interactions that are hurtful, but I have a window that I would not have had otherwise. It allows me to be a friend and coach him a bit, although I walk a fine line not to intrude!
Your new insights on social interactions are interesting. I hope you continue to study the dynamics. I think character..is reflected in your "character" (toon). It is a sad commentary in many cases, as people seem to have poor character! Very revealing. I wonder what drives the anti social behaviors that I see, and if the people behind the toon are the same. *shivers*
Sev - Thanks for pointing out the typo. Fixed.
I can definitely see why parents would be worried about 'inappropriate themes'. The single most shocking thing I've ever seen/heard in an MMO was one time in WoW where someone insulted another player in the Trade channel with some vicious racial slurs. I was 20 at the time, and they were inappropriate themes for ME - I grew up and still live in a very tolerant area, and had only ever seen those words in books. It felt like a punch in the gut to hear a person use MY ethnic group as a slur - and how much worse must it have been for any kids in my place?
I've been playing mmos with my son for many years, way back to EQ#1 times, currently we're in AoC.
While still quite young my son was approached by a sexual predator in-game, while I was right beside him in real-life. My son made it clear his dad said to ignore the guy (just assuming the pervert was male), + that he was a kid. But the guy increased his pressure, offering fairly large amounts of in-game cash for cybersex. Obviously I intervened as soon as I caught on what he was talking about and /block the perv.
The trouble is the pervs are completely safe -- there's no way as a parent I can get his real life info to report to cops or confront him myself. And as prob'ly everyone reading this knows, in-game GMs don't do hardly anything even in-game to enforce rules.
As parents you have to be aware, on-line game sites are a very effective place where child sex predators can go where kids are likely to be present + they're insulated from having their IP# or real-life info released to law enforcement or "Parents with Pitchforks Posse" :-P
In my personal opinion, anyone that is young enough to be at a high risk from sexual predators (under 13 imo) shouldn't be playing the majority of MMO's. Oh, and if there's one thing that a GM (at least in WOW) will pay attention to, it's that kind of behaviour.
On another note, I think that it IS important that parents play the game and understand how it works. It frustrates me so much when I actually tell my parents "hey, I'm going to be on for 3 or 4 hours in 2 days time at 5 pm for a guild raid, is that ok?" and I get a yes... and then when the time comes, and I'm halfway through Kara or something, I get told I have 30 minutes to get off so I can have dinner.
I find it amusing how parents worry so much about you staying up until 2am playing, while half of my schoolmates are out at some party getting drunk.
Overall, the main message I get from my parents about the game is impatience and lack of understanding. I tell them, "you should try the game, just for 20 minutes or something," and they laugh and try to pretend it's a joke. The irony of it is that while they are telling me to broaden my interests, they seem to be mortally afraid of actually playing or understanding anything about the game and its players.
(Buff mages plx)
very interesting stuff and kinda close to home. while i think it would be a good idea for the parents to become involved/knowledgeable about the game, i dont always think its a good idea for them to actually play it. i know that i would not have wanted my mother playing WoW with me back when i played. but she did understand what the game was and why i played it, as well as the social dynamics of the guild atmosphere i was in, that was good enough.
Great research so far!
Though it's focused mostly on the youth and mid aged (understandably largest demographic populace) typical to most MMORPG's - i would still be most interested in seeing elderly statistics (probably more difficult to collect) as well.
i'm an avid WOW gamer. I have been for about three years now and fit the typical gamer profile. I have an older friend of mine (mid 60s) and introduced him to the game. He in turn got his mother (mid 80s) into it as well. (Noodle on this one - where else can so large an age disparity exist between players? genders? races? countries? In my experience diversity certainly is fostered in WOW...)
Needless to say, my friends mother has become bed ridden with cancer. As silly as it might sound, the game gave her something to live for - something to get up for - whether that be for fun or social or just to level her toon to the big 70 mark; SHE GETS UP! That's one step in the right direction to hanging in there and fighting.
Now, understand that this 80 year old doesn't do 'end game', raiding, instancing...or really even typing much for that matter, but she does do solo questing and social interaction with new people and with people that may not be able to (due to geographic constraints) visit her - like her son, my friend.
In game, i can round up a posse that can visit her in; swoop in on our shiney epic mounts to guard her against the horde or speed her to a victorious rush with a quest completion. Even beyond all this social, she gets the chance to walk around, though virtually, since she can't in real life at this time and; to have a body that functions, to see the stars and the sun rise, the weather change, go fishing, take a boat ride, hear the birds, the sea waves rise and crash against the beach, cook something for someone, go hiking in the mountains, - just too many things to enumerate and many that we all take for granted.
i agree that this game teaches life skills; typing, team work, finance/investment, goal setting and follow through...but for some people it gives more.
For those of you unaware of the Make a Wish Foundation kid that got a flying phoenix mount made after him; he arguably rose from the ashes and if he was seeking for immortality in memory or a prolonged youth i think he accomplished both with virtual aid. There seems to be a common theme in MMORPGs whereby they are used as a tool in rehabilitation.
a study on MMORPG's in elder care or the terminally ill could be an interesting augmentation on your/someone else's current work. (I have enough with my thesis going on as is, otherwise i would be tempted to bite.)
great graphs, great risk analysis, great presentation to bridge the technological gap that exists between many of these kids and their parents in the digital age.
oh, one last thing for the parents out there; put your bum behind that computer and try 20 or 30 minutes of WOW. it won't kill you to experience what your kid does. If my friend's 80 year old can do it - i think you can, and should, too. This isn't like it was for your parents parents where outdoor play was the same for all generations - we are the first generation to do MMORPG indoor play and there is no possible way (internet didn't exist nor the gaming infrastructure) you did MMORPG's when you were children. You certainly understand basketball and baseball, how could you not as you most likely played them, in the similar manner how can you understand and pass judgment on MMORPG's if you have never experienced one.