People of all ages are playing games, so it’s important that parents know which ones are intended for younger players — and which ones aren’t. Here’s a guide.
Are your kids video game fanatics? You’re not alone. Video games are a favorite hobby among kids today. When kids are young, having them play a video game can be a welcome break for both you and them. But as they get older, particularly the teenage years, their video gaming habits change: They may prefer to play with friends, and may even compete at a higher level with more challenging and edgy content. As parents, we understand that this is normal and inevitable, and we do our best to set and enforce ground rules, and pick games we consider appropriate for our kids. Like any parenting decision, the more you know when selecting those games, the better off you’ll be.
Did you know that the average age of a gamer today is actually 33? That’s no typo. People of all ages are playing games, and so it stands to reason that, just like movies and TV shows, some games are simply not intended for younger players. It’s important you know which ones are intended for younger players — and which ones aren’t. Here’s a guide:
Know the Rating
To determine if a particular game is right for your child, start with the rating on the package. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a nonprofit organization that assigns the ratings that appear on the front and back of virtually every game available for purchase or rental. The front and back of the package carries one of six age ratings. On the package’s back, next to the rating, are content descriptions that explain what might have triggered the rating, and indicate what may be of interest or concern to parents.
The ratings are intended to be used as a guide, so that parents can use their own judgment about what they consider appropriate for their children and family. During the process of assigning ratings, you have to considers many different aspects: What is the degree of intensity and realism? How much control does the player have over the action? What is the reward system? These considerations figure into the rating that is ultimately assigned.
Stand Your Ground
As every parent can attest, it’s natural for kids to want the things that older kids want. As compelling or compassionate as a child’s plea may be, parents shouldn’t hesitate to say “no” when a game doesn’t seem appropriate for them. Saying “no” to your child may not be easy, but as parents, you can take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in standing your ground — even when they swear all their friends are allowed to play a game and you’re the only one being so “unfair.” They’ll say something like, “All of my friends get to play it. What’s the big deal? Don’t you trust me? It’s just a game!!!” The lobbying can be relentless, but you can be assured that, despite your kids’ denials to the contrary, the overwhelming majority of parents say they never allow their children under 17 to play Mature-rated games.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below
Undoubtedly many kids will argue that all the “cool” games are the ones you don’t permit. But that’s not necessarily true — there are plenty of fun, popular, and suitable games for kids to play. In fact, Mature-rated games (which warns that the game’s content is appropriate for ages 17 and older) represent only a small sliver of games overall, despite all the media attention. Out of almost 1,300 games rated by the ESRB in 2006, more than half received an E for Everyone rating, and only 8% were rated M for Mature. Not only that, but in 2006 there was only one M-rated game on the Top 10 seller list, and the year before there were zero.
That being said, parents do tend to be less restrictive once their children enter the teenage years. Although the M for Mature rating is to be taken seriously, parents should use their own judgment when deciding what they consider suitable for their own kids.
Set Your Parental Controls
Parental control settings are tools that parents may use to manage the games their kids play and, if you have a new console or computer, they should be your second checkpoint. Similar to the V-chip for television, parental control settings allow you to restrict the games that can be played on your system based on the ESRB rating you choose. All new video game console systems (Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3) have this function, as does the newest version of Windows Vista as well as handheld devices such as the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP).
The way these settings function may vary a bit, so you should familiarize yourself with how your system’s controls work. However, the premise is essentially the same: For instance, say you have an 11-year-old who you feel isn’t ready for Teen-rated games (which are appropriate for ages 13 and older). You would set the parental controls to allow games that carry ratings up to E10+ (for ages 10 and older). If, say, a neighbor’s kid tries to use a Teen-rated game on your system, it won’t work.
These settings are password-protected so only you can control or change them. No parent can be in the same room as their child all the time, so activating parental controls can make managing your kids’ video game playing that much easier.
For the motivated and more inquisitive parent, a great third checkpoint would be the Internet, where you can find resources to get better acquainted with a game. Look for video game reviews, screenshots of the game during play, trailers and playable demos.
Go straight to the source! Talk to your children about the games they play. Be adventurous and actually play video games with your kids to find out what they’re like. Go on! Stop being so intimidated and take a trip into the virtual worlds your children so enjoy visiting. Playing games can be a fun way to learn new skills, spend some downtime with your kids, and maybe even earn some bragging rights in the house.
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