Where Do Online Games Take Your Kids?

Get the Most Out of Online Games

Whether it's puzzles, shooters, or dress-up, there's a game for every interest and age. And since online games are also available wirelessly, kids can play them on any mobile device with an Internet connection. The sheer volume -- and immediacy -- of online games can be daunting to many parents. In this video, we explain the four main types of online games and give you tips on managing online games for every age.

Many Internet games can be played within your browser and are free. Kids can simply go to the site and start playing. These are called Flash games or casual games, and they're the ones that are offered on most kids' websites.

Next are online game portals like Miniclip and CrazyMonkey, which offer a huge array of Flash games. Many of the games on these sites aren't appropriate for all ages. Plus, they have tons of ads and contests that can carry malware and spyware.

A step up from casual games are Massively Multiplayer Online games like World of Warcraft. These games are designed for kids ages 13 and up and are very much like the games you play on video game consoles. They offer anything-goes game play against players all across the Internet and often require in-game purchases. So, parents, be forewarned: These computer games can reach out of the screen and into your pockets.

Virtual world games, like the very popular Club Penguin, are another kind of online game. These are immersive environments that provide a virtual playground where kids create avatars to socialize, play games, and create their own space. Virtual worlds offer various levels of chat functionality and are often monitored for inappropriate conversation.

Whichever types of games your child is drawn to, you'll want to judge the age appropriateness of the gameplay, features, and content. Here are some tips to keep in mind for every age.

Online Game Tips for Preschoolers and Elementary-Aged Kids

  • Guide preschoolers. Sit alongside younger kids and explain what the game is asking them to do.
  • Choose good games. Look for titles that are educational and stimulating.
  • Establish time limits. Be firm from the beginning about how much time kids can play.
  • Be aware of multiplayer options. Kids need to develop social skills in the real world before they start practicing these skills in cyberspace. There are plenty of excellent online games that don't require your child to talk to anyone else.

Online Game Tips for Middle- and High School-Aged Kids

Review the multiplayer options. Preteen and teen games involve more player interaction, multiplayer action, or player-generated content that kids can upload and download. But these features can be controlled by the player, so set the controls that you're comfortable with.

Watch the language. Language can get intense when kids are hyped up from the action. If you aren't comfortable with what you hear, use the parental controls that disable online play.

Be wary of contests, freebies, and cheat codes. These things can seriously jam your computers with malware and spyware.

Choose age-appropriate games. Teen games can be incredibly immersive and even addicting -- not to mention violent. So make sure that you agree on time limits, and set some rules around which games are appropriate for your kids.