MADISON (WKOW)--Kids today are hooked on massively multiplayer online games, virtual worlds where they journey through magical lands with thousands - sometimes millions of other players, who range from 12 to adult.
"Massively Multiplayer Online games, or MMOs, are more popular than ever with millions of players worldwide. While some parents don't allow their kids to play them. They're too hard for us to control who they're talking to. Other families are trying to figure out what the rules of the house should be." says Kathleen Huddy of the Good Housekeeping Research Intitute.
RuneScape, like all MMOs, allows real-time, essentially unregulated chat. But there are ways to filter out strangers.
"You can guide your kid to the chat filter at the bottom of the screen where you can decide whether he talks to all gamers, none, or just his friends," says Laura Hahn of the Good Housekeeping Institute.
One of the most popular games is World of Warcraft. It can require a big-time commitment.
"World of Warcraft has a really cool feature called the "Play Scheduler" where you can decide how many hours you want your kid to play."
"Some of these games incorporate using real money or drinking alcohol... You start walking or swerving around because you can't control it and you act tipsy, or then drunk, and then completely smashed. ...so check the rules before allowing an all access pass," says online gamer Ryan O'Gorman.
Before buying a game, check its rating.
The entertainment software rating board assigns a rating to every game that explains how appropriate that game is, from "E for everyone" to "M for mature."
Familiarize yourself with your children's game by asking them to explain it to you.
Try playing the game with them and looking on the internet for more information. Keep the gaming console or computer in a common area of the home, instead of a child's bedroom, so that you can keep an eye and ear on the action.
Talk with your children about what they're doing and why you're concerned. An open dialogue will help them understand why you are establishing these rules.