The voice chat parenting crisis…
Recently, I found my teen daughter voice chatting to folks in the MMO she plays the most – Mabinogi. She has some real life friends who play, and some others that they’ve met online.
The thought of her voice chatting with people that she didn’t know made me uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sure how to deal with it in a way that didn’t make me seem hypocritical. (While there are things that are non-negotiable, I try to be a thoughtful parent and mindful of how it was to be a teen.) After all, I use voice chat regularly, and some of the folks that I played WoW and Warhammer with have become great real life friends.
Fortunately, she’s an absolutely awesome kid, and understood my discomfort. I asked her to just hold off on voice chatting while I thought about it for a while, and we talked a bit about why I felt uncomfortable, and some possible solutions to the dilemma. I know some of the things that have been said to me in vent, and I’d rather not have those things said to my daughter. She knows not to give out personal information about herself online, but once she starts talking, people know that she’s a young girl.
Voice chatting in MMOs is not one of those parenting issues that I can solve by looking at my own upbringing. I have wonderful parents, but this just wasn’t something they had to deal with. Maybe the 80s equivalent would have been calling random people on the phone and chatting with them? Yeah. That wouldn’t have gone over well.
I have a good friend with a gaming teen. Her son is a little older than my daughter, and he’s a great kid. He’s also got two level 80s in a raid guild in WoW, so I knew that they’d probably dealt with the voice chat issue. She explained that they’d disallowed using vent for a while, until their son proposed paying for the server himself, so he could set the rules and control who came into vent. That solution has worked out really well for them.
Together, my daughter and I ended up making two decisions. First, she would only use voice chat with her real life friends. They’re the only people she wanted to talk to in anyway, but other people kept jumping in. I may end up paying for the vent server so she can control who’s on. Secondly, she started playing EQ2 with me. She wants a challenging MMO experience with loads of content and rich lore. She’s been having a blast, role-playing, level locking to work on crafting and exploring all the areas in each tier. While she goes off to do her own thing in Norrath, I feel better about being connected to what she’s doing.