To say that video games are divisive is the understatement of the century. You either love them for their entertainment value, storytelling mechanics, and constant innovation, or you shun them as time wasters that warp the minds of the youth. Whatever you believe, the first step towards safeguarding your children from inappropriate material is education and vigilance! That’s where we come in.
Today on Healthversed, we’re going to give you a crash course in video games. Over the next few pages we’ll go over which games to avoid, how to police your child’s usage, what the experts say about violence in video games, and so much more!
So, sit back, relax, and press start when you’re ready. Let’s go!
If you’re worried that a particularly mischievous son or daughter are side stepping your house rules by purchasing and buying forbidden video games without your consent, don’t. Most retailers are required to ask for identification to ensure that the more controversial games don’t end up in the wrong hands.
You must be 17 to purchase any game with an M for Mature rating and 18 to purchase anything rated AO for Adults Only. And trust me, retailers do take these rules seriously. I remember having to drag my Mom out to the game store to purchase Grand Theft Auto over 10 years ago. To this day, 16-year-old me still can’t believe that she bought it.
The Impact of Gaming on Children
Does it warp their minds or shape them? This hotly contested debate is as old as the industry itself.
First, the good stuff. Gaming has been show to improve a child’s working memory, it can increase pro-social behavior in children, it builds brain regions, and can even improve processing speed. They can help children learn, explore, and create in a relatively risk-free environment.
The gaming life isn’t without problems. Excessive screen time can contribute to childhood obesity, it can hinder your child’s psychological development, and exposure to violent video games may lead to aggressive behavior.
When Should They Start?
When it comes to kids and computer games, a parent’s first question is a popular one: exactly how soon is too soon?
As you’d expect, the debate is a divisive one. Some parents believe that exposing their child to video games and technology at an early age gives them a developmental head start over their thumb sucking peers. While others believe that early access to technology hinders their kid’s development and robs them of their childhood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children younger than 18-months. It’s a good benchmark, but it’s by no means a hard a fast rule. I’d wait until my child was two-years old just to be safe.
How Much is Too Much
So, you’ve decided to impose a screen time age limit. Good for you! The next hurdle should of course be, how much is too much? For that answer, we return to the American Academy of Pediatrics helpful list of recommendations.
The AAP suggests limiting children to two hours of screen time per day for children between the ages of two and five and adjusting on an individual basis after the six-year mark. No parent is perfect, and no two children are the same, so it’s important to observe and adjust your child’s usage as you deem appropriate.
How to Manage Their Usage
The Internet is a great resource for autodidactic parents looking for a disciplinary edge. There are a ton of screen time managing strategies available to those that look for them. Here are some of the best strategies Healthversed was able to find.
First, it’s important to communicate your desires clearly to your child. If they’re old enough, explain to them why limiting their screen time is beneficial to them. Setting boundaries is important, as well as setting clear consequences. If you want to fight tech with more tech, there are a lot of great apps available.
For more, click on over to Common Sense Media. They’re an invaluable resource for parents looking for a comprehensive understanding of the media landscape and how it effects their children.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is the organization that monitors the fake blood and guts so that you (and your child) don’t have to.
Not unlike the way movies are rated, the ESRB classifies games using a list of seven distinct ratings categories and prominently displays it on each and every box. Familiarizing yourself with the seven categories should make your job as a parent easier. They include:
- Early Childhood – for young children
- Everyone – suitable for all ages.
- Everyone 10+ – May contain some cartoon violence, but safe for kids over 10.
- Teen – suitable for anyone 13 years old and over.
- Mature – meant for those over the age of 17.
- Adults Only – 18+
For a detailed explanation of ESRBs ratings system, you can visit their website.
Loot Crates and Microtransactions
Microtransactions, a system that encourages players to purchase virtual goods, are another gaming pitfall to watch for. Not unlike slot machines, in-game loot crates use push notifications, positive reinforcement, and randomized results to encourage players to spend real money. And yes, it works.
Protect your kid from microtransactions by turning off in-app purchases, enabling password protection, setting an iTunes allowance, and removing your credit card number from your account altogether.
Does your little one like to test their skills against other human players online? Great! But also, dangerous.
Remember the ESRB ratings that we discussed earlier? Yeah, those ratings all include the caveat that the “game experience may change during online play.” To the layperson, that means that the online portion of the game is not rated. Depending on the game and community, the chat can be dark and unfriendly. So always keep that in mind when permitting your child to take their game online.
Kid Friendly Consoles
Hate it or love it, video games are incredibly popular. An added benefit of their surging popularity is the wide array of kid-friendly gaming options. Every gaming console on the market has a growing library of kid-friendly, age appropriate games to help your kid battle boredom and learn all at the same time.
We recommend introducing your child to smartphone and tablet games first. Games like ABC Kids and FunnyFood are both fun and educational, toddler friendly options. If they graduate from the iPad and are looking for something a little more stimulating, then hand over that mouse! The PC is the next step with pre-school puzzle games and more.
If the kids are a bit older and looking for some family room fun, the Nintendo Switch has a growing list of kid-friendly games appropriate for children over the age of six.
Age Appropriate Games
So, what games should you buy for your child? Good question! Here are some kid friendly games to get you started.
For children between the ages of two and four, there’s Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings (iOS/Android), the LEGO Juniors Create & Cruise app (iOS/Android), and LumiKids Park by Lumosity.
For five to seven year-olds, check out Pix the Cat (PC/Playstation 4), Toontastic 3D (iOS/Android), Yoshi’s Woolly World (Nintendo Wii U/3DS), or Super Mario Maker (Nintendo Wii U/3DS).
And for those eight years of age and older, games like Minecraft (all platforms), Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch), Splatoon 2 (Nintendo Switch), and PAC-MAN 265 (all platforms) are always hits.