Your child often spends time clicking buttons on a controller and talking to their friends online. What are they up to? They must be playing their “Xstation 64” again. Video games have gotten a bad wrap in the past, but having been out for several decades, many have come around to them, though there are still misconceptions and those who are less aware of current gaming trends (which is understandable, as video games aren’t for everyone). By utilizing audience segmentation, many gaming companies tailor their games for specific audiences based on age, gender, and countless other factors.
Current statistics show that, while gaming is not exclusive to younger audiences, twenty percent of gamers in the United States in 2021 are under the age of 18. Because so many children and teens are playing video games in today’s day and age, it’s important to stay informed of their activities. This doesn’t mean you have to monitor everything your child is doing on their gaming device, but keeping yourself aware of their actions is a good rule of thumb. But what is there to know?
Just like movies, video games have their own rating system that tells you if it is appropriate for the age of the player, which can be found on the box of a game or online. If you do a majority of the game buying, this might help you decide whether to let your child play a certain game or not. “E” stands for “Everyone,” and is essentially your “G” or “PG,” if movie terms help you understand, while “T” for “Teen” is equivalent to “PG-13,” and “M” for “Mature” being your “R” rating. Games can vary on content, so you might need to research specific games to see how each of them stack up, but this is a good starting point. If your child is only nine but you allow them to watch PG-13 movies, letting them play a game that is rated “T” might not be a big deal, but you might not want them playing “Grand Theft Auto” for a while.
Games have changed a lot since the early days of Mario. Nowadays, many games have microtransactions, which are virtual in-game purchases one can make via credit card or external scratch card purchases. Does your kid talk about something called “Fortnite” frequently? This is one of many games that contain microtransactions. Do they play a lot of “Madden NFL”? Same thing. While these microtransactions are not dangerous alone, and the occasional purchase might not matter, if your credit card is linked with any account your child is playing on they could potentially use it to buy virtual goods.
Don’t be alarmed, doesn’t have to be an issue as long as your child understands that a credit card is not a bottomless well of money. You can also tell them that if there is something they want, they need to ask you first. If they are too young to understand this, or if you would rather not entrust them with your money, simply disconnect your card from their game console or avoid games with these features. This doesn’t mean you have to cut them off from ever playing another game, but you also don’t want to check your statement one month only to find a thousand-dollar bill waiting for you.
Watch the Clock
Contrary to popular belief, video games will not rot your child’s brain; in fact, studies have shown that playing them can actually prove beneficial for developing thinking patterns and hand-eye coordination. That being said, it’s understandable that parents don’t want their children sitting in front of a screen for hours upon hours each day. It might be wise to limit them to a certain amount of time each day during the week, such as one to two hours–perhaps they can play longer on the weekend if you so choose to let them.
As long as they are getting their homework and chores done and aren’t developing an addictive habit, there is nothing wrong with allowing them to play otherwise. They might ask for ten more minutes, or to let them finish a match with their friends if they are online and in the middle of a game, and this is fine, just be sure that they are not overextending their reach and that you both have a mutual understanding of fair play.
Hopefully, these tips will shed some light on the world of gaming for parents with children who frequently indulge in them. Games have allowed many to experience unique ways of storytelling, interact with their friends, and find comfort, especially during the pandemic. There have been many studies over a decade long that have determined that video games do not elicit violent tendencies or rot brains, and are simply a hobby that acts as an entertaining stress relief, no different than reading a book or watching a movie, but at the end of the day, it’s your household.
If you’re fine with letting your children play video games freely or with restrictions, that’s totally okay; if you would rather they didn’t play them and prefer that they instead spend the time doing other activities, that’s well within your right as well. Regardless, it’s good to stay informed and in touch with your children’s interests and activities, whether that be on a console, tablet, or out at the park.