“Safety Is No Game. Is Your Family Set?” Campaign Kicks Off Second Year

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 7, 2007 – Microsoft today kicked off year two of the “Safety is no game. Is your family set?” campaign by debuting a new Family Timer as an addition to the Xbox 360’s already robust set of family-friendly features. This news came with recent research findings that reveal 62 percent of parents and caregivers would welcome a tool to limit the amount of time video game consoles are used in their homes. Microsoft also announced a partnership with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to advocate for a balanced approach to interactive media use, encouraging families to come together to talk about how their children spend their time in front of television and computer screens.

Robbie Bach, President, Entertainment & Devices Division, Microsoft

PressPass discussed today’s announcements with Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, and National PTA CEO Warlene Gary, who spoke with an audience of students and parents at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C., this morning about being a kid in the digital age and the challenges families face navigating this complex new world.

PressPass: What is the “Safety is no game. Is your family set?” campaign all about and what prompted it?

Bach: We launched this campaign last year to address the concerns of parents about their children’s access to inappropriate content in video games and on their computers. The campaign is designed to educate parents on the tools and resources available that can help them manage their family’s media use. The main program was a 20-city bus tour where we visited with parents and showed them how to use the controls on the Xbox 360 and Windows Vista, and with kids showing them that there are fun games for all ages.

This year, our research tells us that having family rules around media consumption are important to parents – including setting limits on the amount of time kids are in front of an electronic screen – or what we say in my house, “screen time.” Further, more than half the parents we surveyed said that if a timer was available, they would definitely use it to manage screen time for their kids.

Not sure if this is welcome news to kids, but parents definitely are clamoring for it!

PressPass: What did you announce today?

Bach: We are trying to help spread the word about screen time guidelines, and to do this we reached out to groups who have an interest in the issues of child safety and education, like the PTA, to help distribute information and tools. The PTA is clearly a long-time leader on this issue and an expert on families, so we are pleased to partner with them. Specifically, we’re excited to announce the Family Timer feature to the Xbox 360. It’s something we added to our Family Settings that helps parents enforce rules on the amount of time their children use the Xbox 360. We also announced a new collaboration with the National PTA to encourage parents to talk with their children about screen time use.

Gary: For the National PTA, this is an excellent opportunity to connect with parents on an issue we all really care about. Today, we are proud to announce our partnership with Microsoft.  Through this partnership, PTA and Microsoft will provide parents with more resources that keep them involved in their children’s lives and help to keep their children safe. The resource we unveiled today is a tool we call the PACT. The PACT is a conversation starter for families – it is designed to help parents and children set rules around online access, video game content and overall screen time. We think this news will be quite welcome by our families and teachers.

PressPass: Why does this partnership make sense for the PTA?

Gary: Though technology is changing at the speed of thought, parenting is eternal.  As times change and technology advances, the role of the parent stays the same in raising a safe, healthy, and successful child.

The premise of the campaign fits naturally with our mission to be a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for the education and well-being of every child. This includes a safer media environment.

We know that it’s challenging for today’s parents to manage the time and variety of media their children are exposed to.  That’s why PTA works to help parents help make the lives of children better by teaming up with many different national education, health, safety, and child advocacy groups and federal agencies.  In this case, we’ve joined forces with Microsoft and we’re excited about all that they’re doing to help parents and children, as well. We are pleased to have been asked for our input and assistance around these timely issues.

PressPass: Why is this partnership important to Microsoft?

Bach: At Microsoft, we wake up every day ready to provide our customers with great software and services experiences, but we feel a responsibility to address parents’ concerns. So, we work hard to address them through technology, education and partnerships.

Partnering with the PTA is a natural for us – when you think of families and education, you think of the PTA.

PressPass: How do you deal with these issues at home, Robbie?

Bach: As the father of three school-aged children, I know how hard it is to keep tabs on the time they spend watching TV or playing video games. I want my kids to have fun, but also know the importance of placing limits on the type of activities and the amount time they spend sitting in front of a screen. My kids actually don’t have access to any screens during the week – we save that for weekends only. It’s very important to me and my wife – and I think to all parents – that their kids get up off the couch and move! Play basketball, go play outside with their friends, entertain themselves in diverse ways.

PressPass: What can we expect from the “Safety is no game. Is your family set?” campaign in the future?

Bach: For one thing, I hope to continue to work with Warlene and the PTA, and other groups like them. We are constantly innovating our technologies to address our customers’ needs and will continue to look for creative ways to do so. We really learn a lot from working with terrific organizations and expert folks from outside the industry. They provide us with great perspective and the occasional reality check.

Gary: It has been very worthwhile to be able to contribute to this work. Digital safety and screen time is high on the national and local PTA priority lists, so this partnership is a great fit for us. Throughout the next school year we will share the PACT for families through our distribution channels, including our Web site, and I am looking forward to staying involved beyond that as we get new ideas and the campaign takes us in additional new directions. With our pipeline to 6.5 million members we hope to continue to use our platform to get the word out about important issues like online safety and smart screen time. It’s good for industry leaders like Microsoft, and it’s good for our members.

I’m looking forward to what the future holds.

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