Video Games have become an integral part of the social fabric of America in the past decade. They are all around us. You see commercials on TV, advertisements on the sides of buses, and loads of them in your favorite electronics store. Even with video games being ubiquitous in today’s world, may parents still have some very basic questions about them and how they should handle games with their parents. Here are 4 basic questions answered by a gaming expert for every parent to read.
At what age should I let my child start playing Video Games?
This question is a tricky one to answer because each child has a different level of maturity. In my opinion, the minimum age a parent should allow their child to play games at is 5. It is at this time where a child’s mind is beginning to really develop rapidly and they can comprehend many new things. Parent’s should take advantage of their child’s growth and introduce them to educational video games here. At this age, children are too young to play video games on a system such as a PlayStation 2, but buying them a simple system, such as a V-Tech or V-Smile, can be very beneficial. These games are very simple, very inexpensive, and can be very educational. They are available at your local retail toy store. These systems have an array of reading, writing, and arithmetic games that can help a child develop skills in a way that is both educational and fun. When your kid is older, you can buy him or her a GameBoy, and later on a PlayStation 2 or another big system. But if you are going to let your child start gaming early, educational systems are the way to go.
How much should I restrict the time my child spends playing video games?
As a parent, you should take advantage of the power you have over your child early on. If your child is very young and you have bought s/he an educational game, then let them play it a few hours a week. An hour playing a math game every other day is not going to hurt. As they get older, keep the time restriction, but be a little more lenient. Let them play another 10 minutes if they ask. 10 minutes extra is not going to make them go from having an A in school to a D. Also, showing that you are a little lenient will show them that you are not trying to completely control them. Don’t make yourself seem like the enemy. As your child reaches the teens, you will likely have a little less control. I say that as long as he or she is not inside playing all day, then it is fine. Video games become harmful when they become addictive, and it is your job to make sure that does not happen as long as you have control over it. As long as games do not become the only aspect of life your child cares about, it’s fine to let them play a dozen hours a week.
My child is __ years old. How do I know what game to get for him?
When your child is old enough to start playing games on more complex systems, it is essential, as a parent, to choose games that are right for him or her. The first thing a parent should learn is to look for the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) Rating on the front and back of video game cases. Here you can see the audience a game is aiming for. On a video game box, you will see one of the following ratings: EC(Early Childhood), E(Everyone), E 10+(Everyone over 10 years of age), T(Children 13 years of age or more), M(17 years of age or more), and AO(18 years of age or more). These letters indicating the rating will be on the front of every box. A parent can then look at the back of the box to see a more descriptive explanation of the themes and content in the actual game. Here you will see the exact content in the game, ranging from mild violence to explicit sexual content, and everything in between. While looking at the ESRB ratings gives you a good idea of what kind of game to get your child, they do not tell you everything.
Just because a game is rated E for everyone, it does not mean the game would be right for your child. You, as a parent, should know what type of things your child enjoys. If he likes racing games, then a fighting game might be the right video game to get him. If she likes adventures, then a sports game might not be a good choice. Also, do not let the ESRB Ratings restrict you on your gaming choices. Your child might 10 year old child might be able to handle a game that is rated T for Teen. It is all about knowing your child and what he or she can handle in terms of complexity and maturity. Speaking of maturity, that leads me to the next question.
My child is still an early teen, should I allow him to play M Rated games?
As seen in the the previous question, there is an ESRB Rating of M for Mature. This game is marketed for people of the age of 17 or older, and children under that age are not allowed to by such games alone. However, they ARE allowed to buy them in the company of a willing parent. Now, many times it is advised to never let your child play an M Rated video game until he or she is at least 16 years old, but I do not think that is necessarily right. It all depends on the child. I, personally, began to play M Rated games when I was 12 years old. My parents knew I was mature enough to understand that it was just a game, and that I could handle some of the more adult themes that are presented in such games. Now I am not saying all parents should let their kids play M Rated games at such a young age. I am saying that you should know if your child could handle such content. If you allow him to watch R Rated movies, then playing an M Rated game should be no different, However, if your child still enjoys things a normal teen would, then restricting him to T for Teen games might not be such a bad idea. Once again, just know what themes your child can handle without any problems, and use that knowledge to guide you in your game choices.
There you have it. I hope that these answers help you parents start to develop a better understanding of video games and how to control their influence on your child’s life.
Any additional questions can be asked by emailing me at ThePatriot06@gmail.com