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Navigating the World of Video Games: A Guide for Parents


Introduction

Video games have become a staple in many children's and teenagers' lives, with 76% of children and teens in the U.S. playing video games. While video games can be a fun and entertaining pastime, it's important for parents to understand the potential risks and benefits. Here are some things parents should consider when it comes to video games, children, and teenagers:

Person playing Nintendo Switch.

Age-Appropriate Content

Not all video games are suitable for all ages. It's important to check the rating of a game before allowing your child to play it, as some games may contain violence, sexual content, or other themes that may not be appropriate for children. ESRB ratings were created for this reason. Not only is it important to consider the rating and content descriptors, but it's equally as important to thoroughly review the interactive elements.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a non-profit organization that assigns ratings to video games based on their content. These ratings, which can be found on the game's packaging or online, are designed to help parents make informed decisions about which games are appropriate for their children. 

ESRB 3-Part Rating System

The ratings include:

EC (Early Childhood): Games rated EC are suitable for children aged 3 and older and may include simple controls and themes.

E (Everyone): Games rated E are suitable for children aged 6 and older and may include mild violence and mild language.

E10+ (Everyone 10+): Games rated E10+ are suitable for children aged 10 and older and may include more intense violence and mild language.

T (Teen): Games rated T are suitable for children aged 13 and older and may include violence, suggestive themes, and mild language.

M (Mature): Games rated M are suitable for children aged 17 and older and may include intense violence, strong language, and sexual themes.

Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) Resources

Not only does the ESRB provide ratings, but they also offer a wealth of resources for parents such as a family gaming guide, parental controls guides and the ESRB blog.

  • The family gaming guide covers everything from selecting appropriate video games, managing screen time, setting up child accounts and parental controls and even how to manage multiple gamers in the home. 
  • The parental controls guide offers detailed guides for setting blocks by age rating, controlling spending, limiting time spent and restricting communications by device.
  • The ESRB blog has both generalized tips and even game specific guides for parents.

Online Safety

Many video games have online components, which can expose children and teenagers to online predators, cyberbullying, and other online dangers. Be sure to talk to your children about online safety and set up parental controls on their devices to help protect them. Online safety not only includes privacy protection, but also setting up appropriate parental controls for in-game purchases.

Learning and Skill Development

While video games are often associated with negative consequences, they can also have positive effects. Some video games can improve problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and even hand-eye coordination. Additionally, many video games are educational and can help children and teenagers learn about history, science, and other subjects in an interactive and engaging way.

Time Management

It's important to set limits on the amount of time children and teenagers spend playing video games. Excessive screen time can lead to problems with sleep, physical inactivity, and socialization. Consider setting limits on the amount of time children and teenagers can spend playing video games and encourage them to balance their screen time with other activities such as sports, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Fortnite on Nintendo Switch

The Potential for Addiction

While most people can enjoy video games without becoming addicted, some individuals may develop an unhealthy obsession with them. Signs of video game addiction include neglecting other important aspects of life, such as school, work, and relationships, in favor of playing video games, and continuing to play despite negative consequences. If you are concerned about your child's video game habits, seek help from a mental health professional.

In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized "gaming disorder" as a mental health condition. Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior that takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities and continues despite negative consequences. While gaming disorder is rare, it is important for parents to be aware of the signs and seek help if necessary.

The Importance of Communication

It's important for parents to talk to their children about their video game habits and establish open lines of communication. This can help parents stay informed about what their children are playing, ensure that they are playing age-appropriate games, and identify any potential problems or concerns.

Conclusion

In conclusion, video games can be a fun and enjoyable pastime for children and teenagers, but it's important for parents to be aware of the potential risks and benefits. By setting limits, choosing age-appropriate content, and teaching online safety, parents can help ensure that their children have a positive experience with video games.

Navigating the World of Video Games: A Guide for Parents

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