Blizzard has built in several tools for parents that are worried about their children playing online games but still want to allow them to play. The tools are there to help parents feel more comfortable about allowing their children online by allowing them to set limits on what they can do, report on what they do, and censor what they see.
While this system has been in place for a long while, I had never really checked it out as my kids were too young for my wife to feel comfortable having them online at all. Now that my oldest is allowed an online game, I looked into these settings and configured them, making my wife much happier about his online activities.
The items that you can control through the parental settings are as follows below along with some details and suggestions on configuring them.
This allows you to setup time limits that your child can play. These limits can be set per day and per week. Remember however that the days count up to the week total and are cumulative, so consider the times carefully.
This means that if you set it as 2 hour maximum per day and 10 hours per week , your child could play 5 days of the week for 2 hours a day and then be blocked on the weekend since they used up the 10 hour weekly limit.
If this is ok with you, then great leave it like that. By setting the weekly total lower than 7 times the daily total I believe you are actually teaching your child something, time management. Be upfront and tell them you have this much time per day, and up to this much time per week, if you use it up before the end of the week you wont be able to get in for those days.
In addition to setting time limits, you can also set when the times are that they are allowed to play. For example you can set it so that your children can only play after school but before bedtime, or only on the weekends.
By doing this you will be able to ensure that they are not skipping out of class or getting up in the middle of the night to go play WoW. Of course it doesn’t stop them from sneaking out or getting up to do other things, but that’s your parenting duties, this is just to help out.
Better yet, Blizzard has some pre-created schedules that you can apply to make it easy.
One key thing to remember here is that if you set it up to block school days during the day, you will have to go in and edit the schedule for holidays, in-services, and other days they have off.
Battle.net Settings - Real ID, Voice Chat, and more
This section is a pretty big one and offers a lot of options, many of which are important provacy and security ones, so check them out closely.
Real ID bothers a lot of players to begging with, never mind parents of children. Real ID displays your email address which could enable people you don’t want contacting your child having their email address. Luckily Blizzard has thought of this and there are two options.
First you can turn it off entirely, so that it does not display. This however also turns off all of the features that Real ID enable, such as cross game chat.
The second option is that you can create your child’s account in your name, so that it is your email and name that appears instead of theirs. This allows you to filter any emails that come your way, while still allowing them to use all the social features it enables. When they are old enough that you feel you can trust them with it on with their own name, Blizzard will change it over to their own name for free as long as you provide proof of ID for both you and your child. The only real issue with this option is that your child’s friends will see your child as your name on their friends list, not a huge deal though.
In this section is also the area where you can control and limit chat, guild, and other options. While you can turn off many of the different chat options, I would suggest not to. The problem is that World of Warcraft is not like your average video game where you play it by your self. Remember it is an MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) and therefore meant to be played with people in an interactive way, not just by yourself. If you disable to many social options you are essentially blocking half the game, if you feel that strongly about it, maybe the time isn’t quite right to allow your child to play yet.
There is an option to disable the in-game voice chat functions in World of Warcraft, and this is nice if you are worried about them being chatted up by someone inappropriate.
However remember two important things:
- No one ever uses the in game voice chat system anyway. Everyone uses Ventrillo, Mumble or any number of other applications to chat in game.
- Unless you also administratively block software installs on the computer they use, or block the use of voice chat software, they will just use one of the better voice chat systems like everyone else does.
- In my opinion it is almost better to have them voice chatting than text chatting anyway. With voice you can at least overhear what is being said from anywhere nearby in the house, with text unless you sit there watching what is being typed you have no idea what is being said.
This is one feature I really like as it provides details on the exact times that your child has played. The report is emailed to you at the end of each week and gives you a way to see when they logged on each time, for how log, and total times over the course of the week.
Also because it is via email to your own email address you child doesn’t have access to it, or even have to know about it if you don’t want them to. It’s a nice way to track what is going on without being intrusive. After all if they are getting their homework done, their chores done, and still going out and playing with friends, why bring it up or point out times. You can see their times and if there are no issues, nothing ever needs to be said.
On the other side of the coin though, if they had a book report or big school project due on a certain day and you find out later that it was done poorly or handed in late, you can check out why. Just go back through your emails and see if they spent the days before playing instead of working. If it was the cause, then you can step in and have a chat with them about priorities and either set tighter play times or remove access all together for a while.
Parental Control Overview
As you can see there are a lot of different options to consider when you are setting up the parental controls. These options are there to allow you some control over how and when your child plays the game. This should provide some security for your child and some piece of mind for you that they will not simply disappear into the digital world entirely.
You can find the Blizzard page to configure the parental controls here: Battle.net Parental Controls.