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Keeping an Eye on Mobile Gaming

There was a time not so long ago when it was easy to tell when your kids were playing video games: they would either be in the family room with a controller in their hands or in the back of the car with a Nintendo DS.

Not anymore. With the rise of casual gaming and mobile apps, games can be played at any time on almost any device. Smartphones, tablets, iPod touches – all of them provide easy access to thousands of games, which can be downloaded in seconds with just a Wi-Fi connection and a few clicks.

All this presents additional problems for parents who are worried about too much screen time and whether their kids are being exposed to inappropriate content. Plus, there can be financial consequences. It might be OK to buy yourself a little peace by handing your iPhone over to your 8-year-old, but it’s not so soothing when your credit card gets hit with all those Smurfs accessories!

But all is not lost. There are things that parents can do to stay on top of their kids’ casual gaming activities and make sure they don’t get out of control. Here are some suggestions:

Check the apps on your smartphone. Make sure you know what your kids have downloaded onto your smartphone – or their own phones if they have them. If you don’t recognize a game, check whether it’s age-appropriate by reading the description in the relevant app store. (The App Store for Apple devices, Android Market, Verizon Wireless Media Store, etc.) Better still, make sure your kids check in with you before they download a game, so you know what they want to play before they start playing it.

Check your phone bill or your iTunes account. Make sure that your child isn’t racking up significant charges by downloading paid games or purchasing in-game items. If appropriate, establish a monthly spending limit. (You can block purchases or set up a monthly allowance on iTunes.)

Do not allow younger children to play games on Facebook. There are numerous games for young children on Facebook but keep in mind that children need to be 13 or over to have their own account. Do not let young children play games on your own Facebook account, as it’s easy to stumble across inappropriate content.

Factor in the additional screen time. Screen time is screen time, whether it’s watching a TV show, using an Xbox 360, or playing with a smartphone. Set limits on how much screen time is allowed, and make sure smartphones and other gaming devices stay out of the bedroom.

Join in the fun! Why not ask your kids to show you how a few of those games are played? Playing games with your kids is a great way to bond and casual video gaming is no exception. But watch out, you just might get hooked yourself!

This article first appeared in Family Buzz, a VerizonInsider blog on the exciting and ever-expanding world of mobile technology.

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