Every parent knows video games are extremely popular among kids. There may be some under your Christmas tree right now. But even gaming experts warn parents to keep an eye on what your kids and playing and who they're playing with.
With six kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to a senor in high school, video games are a popular way to pass the time at Laurie Pujado's home.
"My older ones like to play games that I am not a fan of my younger ones playing. But there is still a common ground where they come together and play together and still have a blast," Pujado said.
To keep her kids safe while still letting them have fun, at the Pujado house there are gaming rules.
"It's kind of like if you set those boundaries right away you don't have to fight that battle. It's when you go back and forth with the boundaries that when the battles begin," Pujado said.
It's not that Pujado doesn't want her kids to enjoy their free time, she's just cautious about what they can get into.
"You know it's just trying to protect your kids; as a parent that's the most important," Pujado said.
"What we really need to do as parents is get involved. We need to watch them and directly observe what they are doing and how they are doing it," CIS Networking Instructor Daniel Larsen said.
Identity theft is on the rise among video game players. Larsen, a computer systems instructor, has done research on the trend. He says video games that are meant to be fun can be ruined by predators.
"We need to monitor them and watch what games they play. Obviously there is a rating system with games and we need to pay attention to that because more of the adult-themed and rated games will be more," Larsen said.
This brings up another problem: online gaming attracts people from all over the world. This is why Pujado says "no" to online gaming all together for her kids.
"You know, I am not a big advocate for the internet video games just because there are so many things out there that they can get into and they don't necessarily mean to get into them. So we currently do not let the kids go on them, not even my senior," Pujado said.
According to Larsen, having a plan and doing your research can make all the difference. While a lot of social interaction these days happens online, Larson has some advice for parents navigating the online world.
“Get involved and make your kids smart about interacting online. It is just like what we have been taught since we were young: don't talk to strangers,” Larsen said.
That's why Pujado encourages her kids to play video games together. That way they can help remind each other to follow the rules and stay out of trouble.
Larsen says it’s important for parents to get to know the parental controls on their child's favorite video game system. He says it's a good way monitor their activity and keep them safe.