Video Games And Kids

Any parent, auntie, uncle, grandparent and babysitter that has a child (or children) in their life that plays video games has run into the sticky situation of the game being rated above the child's age group. Especially as children are allowed to purchase games of any ESRB rating in the USA.

What I am talking about is the morality area. Are you a good parent by letting your kid keep up with his/her friends games? Are you being a good parent by strictly enforcing the ESRB ratings? Are you a good parent by allowing or disallowing games on a game-to-game basis?

I think most of us fall into the latter category which I touched on briefly in my previous post For Parents: Video Game Ratings. Feel free to read or re-read it.

Any gamer parents' experience is that not all video games are alike, even if they are given the exact same rating. Let us look at two popular franchises: Rainbow Six and Call of Duty. Both franchises are very similar. They both are first person shooters. They both put the player in the roll of good guy fighting bad guys. Both have the ability to tone down the gore. But, where they differ, and this is important, is in the multiplayer.

Very different types of gamers are found in the Call of Duty games than in the Rainbow Six games. One gaming studio that produces one of the Call of Duty games even alluded to the nastier demeanor of it's multiplayer gamers. Whereas, generally, in the Rainbow Six multiplayer rooms, people are politer.

Now, let us look at the Halo and Gears of War franchises. Both are third person shooters. Both are human characters fighting aliens. And, unfortunately, both are most known for the amount of cheating that goes on. Between modders, glitchers and boosters, both franchises have become shunned by groups of gamers. Parents run the risk of their child falling into the dark path of cheating in video games if the multiplayer is not monitored.

But, not all kids are into shooters. Some prefer life simulation. Two very popular life simulation franchises are The Sims and Second Life. Both are games I would caution parents heavily in letting their children play. Despite Second Life claiming to have checks in place to keep kids safe, we are all very aware of exactly what goes on in Second Life.

For The Sims games, if you can find a way to avoid the Romancing part of the game, you are golden. But, that said, the Romancing part of the game is very...comical and not at all adult in my opinion. Plus The Sims games are programmed to prevent romance of any type with a child Sim. Once a Sim is a teen they can do PG13 things, but, once again, it is all very comical.

Finally Role Playing Games are a wide open field. You will have to ask others about the game to get a better idea if the ESRB rating is something to abide by in your family. Important questions to ask a salesperson are, "Can I turn off the gore?"; "Is their nudity?"; "Are their sexual situations?" "How difficult are the controls and commands?"

So, what to do when those adorable eyes look up to you and are pleading for XYZ video game? You do have the one old reliable response to buy yourself some time: "Let me think about it." This will buy you a week at maximum to do your research.

Ignore the "know-it-all" attitude of the sales clerk. Ask your questions. If they don't want to answer or give you snippy answers that don't really answer your questions, leave. Do not give them your hard-earned money and valuable time.

Great places to get info on games are blogs such as mine, Twitter, Facebook and gaming communities such as Xbox Achievements/Playstation 3 Trophies.

But what to do when you firmly believe the game is too difficult or too adult for your child(ren). One simple way to deal with it is a "No." with a short explanation. You can even go so far as saying when the child is X age they can play games like that.

As much as none of us enjoy saying no to our kids, it is part of helping our kids grow into great human beings.

A technique a lady I game with uses with her kids is to play the game with her kids if it is an absolute must-have game. She sits down, starts the game and they pass the game controller person to person. She also has very strict control on whom is on her kids' gaming friends lists. They can't just add anyone. People that are added to friends lists have to be approved by her. She also locked down their account (You can see how to do this on the Xbox 360 here.) so they can't speak to or hear from people on their friends lists when they do play multiplayer. She is a serious gaming mamma!

I do a mixture of the two. Some games are a "no way" and others are a "with parental supervision". I also will bargain. I do this by prohibiting one game and offering a different, more suitably rated game if budget allows.

I don't believe that video games lead children to be violent or lazy. There are too many motion video games out there that prevent laziness. Video games can actually be educational. And, wisely monitoring multiplayer leads to good sportspersonship, teamwork and socialization.

It all comes down to you and how you raise your child(ren). But one thing is for certain, video games are here in your child's life and they are here to stay.

How do you deal with picking games for your kids to play? Share your tips with us in the comments!


Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Stay frugal!