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Video Games: What Parents Need to Know

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Oh, no. You walked in on the kids, and it’s not what you want to see. They’re up until three in the morning, and they’re still going at it. They just can’t put down the video games.

Let’s be honest: video games are by far not the worst things kids and teens could be doing. But still, video games are unknown territory for many parents, and parents struggle to make and enforce rules. If you’re a parent who doesn’t know much about video games but who has kids that love them, you probably have a lot of questions. And we’re here to answer them.

Q: Is it okay for my kids to play video games?

A: Yes. Video games get a bad reputation, but in reality, they can actually have a positive effect if monitored correctly. Playing video games can improve their dexterity, teach them about goal setting and decision making, interest them in STEM, and more. Video games are perfectly fine for kids to play. Just remember the old phrase, “everything in moderation.”

Q: What about video game violence?

Video games are often attributed to real-world violence, but the facts show that isn’t the case. As early as age 7, children know the difference between fantasy and reality and realize that video game violence and real-world violence are two different things. Even kids know that the violence on screen isn’t appropriate for their everyday lives.

Though some people still argue that video games lead to violence, the US Supreme Court disagrees. In a 2011 case considering whether California could ban the sale of violent video games to minors, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that studies linking real-world violence to video games “have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.”

All that said, it’s probably a good idea to establish age limits on violent games and to have open and honest discussions with your kids about what they’re seeing on screen.

Q: Won’t video games isolate them?

Not necessarily. Again, everything in moderation. Setting clear boundaries with time limits and expectations prevents video games from becoming their reason for life, but with that said, playing games is a more social activity than you might think. In fact, a recent study found that children who play video games may be more likely to have better intellectual and social skills than other children. Katherine M. Keyes, a professor in the study said,

Video game playing is often a collaborative leisure time activity for school-aged children, and these results indicate that children who frequently play video games may be socially cohesive with peers and integrated into the school community.

A simple explanation is that nowadays, most video games are multiplayer. They need friends, either in real life or online, to play with them for the game to be fun.

Q: What types of games should I let them play?

More games exist than your kids would ever have time to play, so it’s hard to know which games to choose. They’re probably going to want to play the most popular games, and that’s completely okay. But it’s always a good idea to check the game rating done by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) before handing a game over.

If you’re worried about video games not teaching them anything, realize that most video games have some component that will be educational. If you want to take it a step further, you can always look for educational video games. Plenty of them exist.

Q: What else do I need to know?

As technology progresses, video games are becoming more of a childhood (and sometimes adulthood) staple. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s not a dirty secret! Having open and honest family dialogue or playing games together (GASP!) can help video games be social, educational, and overall beneficial. Remember to check ratings and set rules, but don’t lock the games up.