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Parents, Get Control of Video Games Before They Control Your Child

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Today is National Video Games Day, a day to celebrate the relatively recent phenomenon of gaming. For parents, especially parents of teens, I know there is a lot of fear around video games. Do they promote violence? Are they addictive? Are they making your child lazy?

I believe the best approach when it comes to teens and video games is a balance. 

According to a survey conducted by Pew Research, 92% of teen boys and 75% of teen girls reported that they play video games. 

With an overwhelming majority like that, telling your teen he can’t play video games is impractical. Plus, video games aren’t all bad. Some are even educational, like “Driving Essentials,” a video game that teaches teens to drive before they actually hit the road.

Your goal as a parent should not be to fight technology, but rather to set healthy boundaries around it for your kids. They won’t do this for themselves. You will have to do it for them. 

Here are a few simple boundaries you can set around video games for your child that will allow her to keep playing, but safely:

1. Check the ratings.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board rates video games based on age:

E: For all ages.

E10+: For everyone over the age of 10.

T: For teens age 13 and up.

M: For a more mature audience, age 17 and up.

AO: Adults only.

Stick with rating E, E10+, and T, based on your child’s age. Most teens are not ready for games rated M, even if they are 17. Tell them that while they’re under your roof, these are the games they’re allowed to play.

2. Make video game time earned, not a given. 

Don’t let your child immediately begin playing games when she gets home from school. Set rules for what she has to do before she can turn on the video game. Chores, homework, dinner with the family? You decide what is best for your child. Just make sure she knows video games are a treat, not the norm.

3. Be in the know.  

Make sure you know what game your child is playing at your house at all times. Tell him that if he’s ever at a friend’s house who wants to play an inappropriate game, he needs to call you to come to pick him up. Many parents think this won’t work, but it does because many boys don’t really want to play certain games, and they love having an excuse not to.

4. Set time limits. 

Just like with T.V., social media or movies, tell your child she has a certain amount of time to play her video games each day or each week. Give her a 10-minute warning before her time is up. When your child knows there’s a limit to her game time, she is much less likely to become addicted. 

Parents, don’t let video games scare you. They don’t control you. You control them. And you may be surprised at how receptive your child is to these boundaries. That same Pew Research survey found that 41% of teen boys already feel like they play video games too much, and 65% have begun to cut back on their own. Kids want boundaries around their game time. You just have to put them in place. 

To learn more about how video games are rated, visit the Entertainment Software Rating Board at their website ESRB.org.

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