E-Parenting - Modern Parenting in a World of Video Games

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”—Carl Sagan, astronomer

Today’s parent is one who sometimes feels overwhelmed in the ever-changing, ever-growing worlds of technology and media, and works to find a proper balance between keeping up, and staying ahead of the kids. One of the most popular and potentially harmful forms of media out there are video games. What do you know about the video and computer games your kids are playing? While some of them may help your child grow up well, there are a lot of games that could hinder—or hurt—your child’s development. Make sure you know what’s what.

Tips for all parents...

• Know the computer and video games your kids play. Not only monitor what they play at home—but find out what they play away from home.

• Limit your child’s use of video and computer games to no more than one to two hours a day. That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

• Be aware of “mods” and “add ons” that kids can download to modify a game (and often in ways you may not approve of). Read the Parent Alert blog by Dr. Dave Walsh for more information.

• Learn as much as you can about parenting well with computer and video games. Find out the lingo. Know how to keep your kids safe. Learn what the ratings mean. Find online games for families.

• Keep computers out of your child’s bedroom. Place computers in a public location in your home so you can monitor what your kids are doing.

• Play computer and video games with your kids periodically. Have fun together.

• Research games before you buy them for your kids. Find out more about individual games by visiting Common Sense Media

For parents with children ages birth to 5

• Try to avoid having your child use a computer or video game until at least age 2. Most games require that kids have certain skills, and anyone under the age of 2 is too young.

• Monitor your child’s frustration level. Too often, parents introduce video and computer games to young children as a way to get a break from their kids. Educational TV, such as PBS shows, may be a better choice. Young children can easily get frustrated and upset when they can’t get a game to work.

• Find games that are educational and age appropriate. Common Sense Media has suggested games for 2 to 4 year olds and 5 to 8 year olds, although most of the games they recommend are for 4 and 5 year olds.

For parents with children ages 6–9

• Give kids other options than computer and video games. Some can spend too many hours a day playing games. Encourage them to do other activities, such as homework and getting exercise.

• Monitor what your kids are playing since kids can easily swap games with other kids. Follow the ESRB ratings so that your kids are playing games that are rated E, not EC10, T, M, or AO.

• Encourage your kids to play multi-player games with friends that are age appropriate and fun, such as Mario Kart or Super Mario.

For parents with children ages 10–15

• Help your child find a balance between playing games and doing other aspects of their life. Some kids can spend entire weekends playing computer and video games.

• Ask your kids what they enjoy most about the games they play. You may be surprised that what they like best about a computer game may be very different than what you expect. One parent was surprised when her daughter said what she liked best about playing the Sims (a computer role-playing game) was all the creative ways she had figured out how to get her players to die. Her favorite: Having a character burn up by placing it in a room with 15 operating stoves.

• Keep an eye on what your kids are playing. As they get older, they play games owned by other kids—or play games you wouldn’t approve of at other kids’ homes. Follow the ESRB ratings so that your kids are playing games that are rated E10 (if your child is 10 to 12) or T (for kids ages 13 and older), not games rated M, or AO. Also make sure you approve of the games that they’re technically old enough to play. You may think some T games are inappropriate for your 13- to 15-year old.

For parents with children ages 16–18

• By this age, teenagers have heard (or already played) some games that parents would find offensive and not appropriate for teenagers, such as Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. Keep on top of what your kids are talking about and be clear about which games are acceptable—and which are not.

• Encourage your teenager to invite friends over to play multi-player games. Often older teenagers still enjoy playing the multi-player games rated E (for everybody) because they’re fun for all ages.

• One parent was surprised when her daughter said what she liked best about playing the Sims (a computer role-playing game) was all the creative ways she had figured out how to get her players to die. Her favorite: Having a character burn up by placing it in a room with 15 operating stoves.

• Keep an eye on what your kids are playing. As they get older, they play games owned by other kids—or play games you wouldn’t approve of at other kids’ homes. Follow the ESRB ratings so that your kids are playing games that are rated E10 (if your child is 10 to 12) or T (for kids ages 13 and older), not games rated M, or AO. Also make sure you approve of the games that they’re technically old enough to play. You may think some T games are inappropriate for your 13- to 15-year old.

• Don’t be surprised if your older teen talks about bringing video and computer games with him or her to college. Since kids today have grown up with video and computer games, these games are an important part of their lives and socialization. Just be clear that playing games is a fun activity, not something they should be doing all the time.

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