A few weeks ago I wrote a post about introducing children to video games and in it I mentioned that there were ways parents could ensure that their kids stay safe in MMO’s such as World of Warcraft. You will never be able to change other people’s behaviour to keep your child safe from adult themes in a game rated M15+, so if you do decide to allow your child to step into a massively multiplayer online game, you should take the right steps to ensure that any exposure to inappropriate themes or situations are kept to a minimum. Let’s take a look at some of the ways we can do that in World of Warcraft.
Disable Chat Channels
Veteran WoW players are all well aware of how much garbage flows in global channels such as trade chat. Unless your child is still too young to know how to read, disabling methods of communication is the very first thing you should do. Depending on your child’s age and reading ability, I would even suggest going as far as disabling all chat channels, including guild, party and whispers.
To do this in the default user interface (UI), place your mouse over the chat panel: you will see a few tabs including logs, general, etc. Right click on the General tab and select Settings. This will bring up a list of each chat channel available in the game and you can uncheck the ones you feel are inappropriate for your child. Don’t forget to also do this for Global Channels as well, as that is where you neuter trade chat!
If your child is using your account, or they are not very good at reading, you can always simply click on the Log tab and display the combat log without having to alter chat settings. However, as your children get older, this will be less effective as they will figure out how to change it back.
Next up, you will want to ensure that the mature language filter is ON in case you have decided to allow access to certain channels, and I would also recommend disabling Chat Bubbles and Party Chat Bubbles for good measure. There’s no point in disabling /say in the chat window if the bubble will still pop up in front of your son or daughter. To do this, press escape on your keyboard, select Interface from the options, and then choose Social in the list on the left hand side. Here you can enable the Mature Language filter and disable chat bubbles:
Block Guild and Trade Requests
Guild invite spam is a pain in the behind, and it’s also pretty uncool if you are trying to ensure your child is not being exposed to content that you are not comfortable with. The best way to prevent your kid from accidentally ending up in the kind of guild that would make even a hardened criminal blush is to block all incoming guild invites. To do this, press escape on your keyboard, select Interface from the options, and then choose Controls in the list on the left hand side. Here you can enable Block Guild Invites and even Block Trades if you don’t want other players interacting with your child in any way:
Pick the Right Environment
Many of the people who I know that allow their children to play make sure their kids create their characters on a different server where they are unknown. Low population PvE servers are the most logical choice, as there will be less people around (Although Cross Realm Zones have changed that) and there isn’t the added frustration of being ganked.
A popular trend I have also noted is to create a family only guild. This not only stops the guild invite spam I mentioned earlier, but it also ensures that conversations will most definitely be age appropriate. Other options also include finding a family friendly guild with strict policies on what kind of language and conversation is allowed in green chat, although some screening is required as your version of family friendly may be different from theirs! To access the in-game Guild Finder, either press J on an unguilded character, or if you are currently in a guild, you can type /gf to bring it up.
Nothing protects your children from the nasties out there in the online world like proper parental supervision. You wouldn’t let your six year old do a Google search unsupervised, and the same thing goes with online games. If you are allowing your kids to use the internet, there are plenty of tips out there that parents of all backgrounds can benefit from. Don’t get angry at people if they bring up adult subjects in a game rated M15+. As a parent, it is up to you and you alone to ensure your kids are not exposed to themes you are not comfortable with, and the absolute best way to do so is to supervise them at all times.
Update 13 Jan 2015: Thank you to reader, Cara A, who sent through some additional links that parents who want to keep their kids safe online may be interested in:
Do you allow your children to play MMO’s such as World of Warcraft? What methods do you take to ensure that they are safe from trolls and adult content? Share your thoughts in the comments below.