A parent’s guide to World of Warcraft

Ready to head to Azeroth? Here’s what parents need to know about the wildly popular online game World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft (or WoW as it’s affectionately known) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game or MMORPG. It’s a video game with a hugely dedicated following—and it has captured the imaginations of millions of players worldwide. As a parent, you might be wondering if this fantasy-inspired game full of quests and monsters is safe for young gamers. In this guide, we will explore the world of WoW and its safety features, so you can decide if it’s right for your family. Read on to learn more!

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What is World of Warcraft?

Games like WoW have a name all of their own: massively multiplayer online role-playing games. This basically means that there are many, many players online at the same time who interact with a vast virtual world—and each other—in real time. WoW is one of the most popular, and it lets players create characters, complete quests, explore an expansive fantasy world and play cooperatively or competitively.

WoW is the brainchild of Blizzard Entertainment and was first released in 2004. It has since become one of the most popular MMORPGs, with regular expansions and updates to keep players coming back for more. WoW has an immersive environment with vibrant landscapes, diverse creatures and decidedly epic quests. Players can choose from different races and classes, each with unique abilities and playstyles. The game offers both cooperative and player-versus-player experiences, so there are lots of different options for gameplay.

Is World of Warcraft safe for kids?

WoW is rated "T" for Teen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, meaning it’s recommended for players 13 and older. It contains violence, mild language and suggestive themes. The violence has been toned down a bit in recent years, but it’s still there. Characters can drink alcohol in the game, and there’s also the potential to come across sexually suggestive content as well.

Aside from the content of the game, there’s also the potential for contact with strangers. Because WoW is a highly social game, players often spend a lot of time communicating with one another. Common channels include general chat, trade chat, party chat, guild chat and whispering. Whispering is like a private, one-on-one message that isn’t visible to any of the other players in the area.

It’s important that kids are mature enough to know how to handle messages or chats from strangers. And, some of the chats they see may also include mature content or explicit language. The game's content and complexity can also be overwhelming for younger children, but older teens might find the game fun and engaging, especially if they have an interest in fantasy.

What else should parents know?

There’s always the possibility that kids will encounter some toxic content. If they do, you should encourage them to report that behavior. WoW also has parental controls and safety settings that let you manage and restrict your child's gameplay. These settings include chat filters, time limits and the ability to block communication with other players. Using these features can help protect children from the worst of the dangers on the platform—though no parental control is foolproof.

As with any video game, it's important to establish healthy gaming habits. Take some time to chat with your kid and agree on time limits together. Encourage breaks and prioritize other activities like exercise, in-person socializing and school work.

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Is World of Warcraft right for your family?

Parents are well-advised to heed the “T” for Teen rating for WoW, and consider kids’ maturity level before letting them play. Setting up parental controls and safety features is a good idea–and agreeing on time limits beforehand is also ideal.

Maintaining an open conversation with your kid about gaming is crucial. And, it’s a good idea to play side-by-side at first to get a sense of the game yourself. By actively engaging with your kids’ passion for gaming, you can better guide them toward responsible habits.

Image Credit: vorDa / Getty Images

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