Dad's Guide to Video Games
Your kids always want the latest video game, or they want to go to your neighbor’s house so they can play video games. But how do you know which video games are appropriate…and just what do those ratings mean anyway? Read our tips for setting solid, age-appropriate gaming guidelines.
- Learn the rating systems. Just because your teenager wants a game rated “T” doesn’t mean it’s something you want him viewing/participating in. Get familiar with the ratings at the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)’s website.
- Learn as much about the game as you can. Ask other parents who may own the game to see what their thoughts are and what the game really contains. There are also several online resources to help you, as well. ESRB allows you to analyze a video game according to ratings and content. What They Play offers in depth reviews as well as user reviews from parents. Game Spy lets you view a demo of the game.
- Play the games with your kids. Not only is this a great way to connect with your children, it also gives you a chance to really see what the video games are like, and what kind of effect they can have. You are then fully aware of what you children are seeing and engaging in.
Too much of a good thing?
Maybe you already know you have appropriate games, but getting your children to step away from the console is your issue. Here are some pointers for getting kids engaged in something other than a TV/computer screen.
- Set boundaries early and keep them. Set rules as soon as your children start playing video games, and stick to them! Limit their gaming time and only allow them to play games after specific chores or homework are completed. It will be harder to establish rules later, after your children have spent hours – or years! – gaming. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you limit video gaming to two hours or less a day.
- If you are introducing rules to an older child, be firm. Giving in or being inconsistent will not accomplish anything, and it sets a bad example. Try to substitute time spent gaming with another activity or hobby your child enjoys. It may be difficult at first, but give it time, and be sure to communicate clearly, and often.
- Pick up a hobby or activity together. Help your child find an activity that he or she enjoys that can take the place of gaming. This provides you with an opportunity to connect, and, if you choose something active, you – and your child – will be able to get the exercise and activity you both need.
It’s impossible to protect your child in every situation and from all inappropriate content, but being involved and setting clear boundaries will allow you to monitor a majority of what your child sees and plays, and helps you keep video gaming from becoming an obsession.