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AG Mills shares safe shopping tips for families
November 21, 2016
AUGUSTA – Attorney General Janet T. Mills is sharing information and resources to ensure that the brightly wrapped gifts exchanged this holiday season contain no unwanted surprises and so families can set ground rules for the proper and safe enjoyment of digital devices year-round.
“There is nothing like seeing the joy of a child opening a gift,” said Attorney General Mills. “If that gift is a digital device, parents should be thinking now about how that gift should be used in the months to come. Ask yourself if your child should have 24/7 access to the internet. Establish clear, consistent rules for the use of these devices in your home. Review with your child what information they can share on social media and reinforce how quickly ‘private’ information and photos become public. Remind them that the ‘golden rule’ also applies to their online behavior – they need to treat others with respect online.”
Once families decide to purchase a gaming device, tablet, computer or smart phone, it can be difficult for parents to keep up with the rapidly evolving array of games, websites and apps that appeal to young people. Parents should review and monitor what sites and apps their child uses to ensure they are age appropriate. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB.org), a non-profit, self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings for video games and mobile apps, offers many helpful tips for parents; one of the most important of which is to activate parental control settings. Depending on the device or digital storefront, these settings can block certain features such as in-game purchases, access to the internet and location tracking. Step-by-step guides on ESRB.org help parents set controls on video game consoles, handhelds and personal computers based on the ESRB rating. Also ask your local retailer about any tips they recommend.
"Holiday shopping can be a confusing time for parents with the ever-changing array of new technology for our young people. We thank General Mills for educating Mainers on the tools that are available for parents to help make smart choices," stated Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine.
Many websites can help parents and children learn about the most appropriate games and coach smart online behaviors.
• OnGuardOnline.gov offers tips to be responsible online.
• ESRB.org assigns age and content ratings for games and mobile apps with information to help parents strike the right balance for kids between time spent with electronics and time spent with family, school work, extracurricular activities and other interests.
• CommonSenseMedia.org reviews apps, beyond the ESRB ratings, to help determine if the app is right for your child.
• NetSmartzKids.org has tips about sharing information online and how to prevent cyberbullying. The American Academy of Pediatrics has established some guidelines for parents in dealing with appropriate limits on screen time and access to media.
“People should also consider the safety and age-appropriateness of traditional gift items for children,” said Attorney General Mills. “Most toys have a recommended age on the package because they may contain small parts that could choke small children. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has a website with recalled children’s products – everything from cribs and car seats to pajamas and toys. It pays to be aware of items that have high lead levels or other hidden dangers.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.gov) offers three pieces of advice to holiday shoppers: 1. Choose age appropriate toys by reading the age label on the toy. For children younger than 3, avoid toys with small parts which can cause choking. 2. Scooters and other riding toys –Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and should be sized to fit as falls could be deadly. Never let your child ride a scooter on a street or roadway with other motor vehicles. 3. Magnets – Children’s magnetic toys are covered by a strong safety standard that prevents magnets from being swallowed. High-powered magnet sets are dangerous and should be kept away from children. Whether marketed for children or adults, building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.
“However you celebrate, I hope this season is filled with joy,” said Attorney General Mills. “Taking a little extra time now to think about the responsibilities that come with giving a child an electronic device will ensure these gifts continue to deliver that joy for many months to come.”
In addition to these issues, all shoppers should keep these matters in mind:
• Ask about the return policy before you buy. • Keep your receipts. • Be aware of Maine’s Implied Warranty – the extended warranty offered at the point of purchase may not be worth buying - http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/lawguidearticle.shtml?id=27922 • When buying online use a credit card, not a debit card, which will provide you with better consumer protections. • Monitor your statements and be on the lookout for unauthorized charges.
If you have questions about these or other consumer matters, please contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 1(800) 436-2131 or firstname.lastname@example.org .