I was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal on the topic of sexual content in video games and more specifically, how can parents prevent their children from stumbling upon inappropriate content? You can see the article behind a paywell here: "Roblox struggles with sexual content. It hopes a rating system will help."
Many parents don't realize that sexual role-playing, sexualized gestures including twerking, lap-dancing, and more, can be found in children's online video games. Even the innocent, cartoon image-like games. Gaming platforms such as Roblox find it difficult to successfully moderate this inappropriate content because it is in fact user-generated content.
This means that the users themselves are creating and uploading sexualized content that our little ones can inadvertently see.
While we wait for industry guidelines on content moderation or perhaps even government regulation on how to keep our children safe online, we -, as parents and caregivers must take the necessary steps to guide our children in safe game playing.
I regularly urge parents not to freak out when they learn their children have explored sexual content or engaged in sexual role-playing online.
I tell parents to take the tech out of the equation and to think about how they would handle this if they caught their child and a friend playing doctor. Or how would parents handle the situation if they caught their child with an adult magazine (yesterday's online pornography).
I strongly advise all parents to have ongoing discussions with their children. No matter the maturity of your child, you can speak to them in an age-appropriate manner and ask if they’ve ever seen something that makes them feel icky or uncomfortable. With older children and teens, you can also watch their behavior after they are online - do they seem secretive or upset?
Parental controls coupled with ongoing conversations can make a world of difference to our children's digital environment.
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