Microsoft Weighs in on Keeping Young Gamers Safer Online

This week, I had the opportunity to join more than 400 educators, safety advocates and industry representatives at the Family Online Safety Institute Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The yearly event focuses on innovative ways to develop and advance safer and healthier online experiences for children.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Evaluate. Innovate. Collaborate.” The message was clear: we must continue to work together to explore new ways, and utilize new technologies to help keep kids safer online.

In that spirit, I was excited to showcase how Xbox 360, Kinect and Xbox LIVE lead the way in supporting family-friendly experiences and helping parents protect their kids while online. We shared our work with partners in the Get Game Smart program, including the latest Family Settings updates, as well as our continued focus on online safety and privacy by design as disciplines. We also had a chance to present an early look at the upcoming Xbox LIVE dashboard that we believe will make it even easier to for parents and caregivers to view and use Family Settings.

One of the most exciting parts of the week was participating in the panel discussion, “Responsible Gaming, Networking and Safety in Virtual Worlds,” led by Jennifer Hanley of FOSI. My fellow panelists were Amy Pritchard of the Metaverse Mod Squad, Marianne Malmstrom, a teacher on behalf of Lego, and Susan Fox of Disney.

A major theme from our conversation related to parents playing games with their kids and understanding both the benefits and risks across different worlds, platforms and environments. As an industry, we must continue to focus on education and awareness, as well as tools and resources to help parents with this task. Finding the right balance in every product and service is critical.

As an example, we announced in October that Microsoft will soon roll out the next generation of TV and entertainment. Nearly 40 television and entertainment providers will provide content, including movies, music and television shows. From the outset, Xbox parental controls have been a critical priority. This longstanding focus on empowering parents will continue with the expansion of content through enhanced Xbox 360 Content Controls, which we plan to integrate seamlessly into nearly every application.

These controls will include support for ratings-based restrictions on content access in every Xbox LIVE region where country/region-specific ratings exist for movies, television, games and music. Settings will also persist from application to application to ensure content is managed consistently. We encourage parents to turn on Content Controls from the dashboard to experience customized content management on Xbox 360.

Overall, this was a great two days, and FOSI’s Annual Conference continues to be one of my favorite conferences of the year.

For more on Xbox 360 and families, click here, and for more on Get Game Smart, click here.

About the Author

Director, Online Safety - Interactive Entertainment Business, Microsoft