Tips For Parents about the Video Games Children Play

Keeping Inappropriate Games Out of Children's Hands

Gaming is all about fun, and this generation of console gaming systems do a great job of entertaining. Whatever game system you or your child chooses, there are lots of fun games on each system to keep you, a friend, or a child entertained for hours on end. It is important to remember that when buying for a child, the parenting doesn't stop after the system is purchased.

Keep a watchful eye on the games your children play. It is easy to blame software companies for making inappropriate games, but video games aren't just for kids anymore. In fact, there are more users in the late teen and older market than the kids, so it makes sense that game makers target these audiences. Be involved in their gaming habits, and don't be afraid to let them know what you feel is inappropriate for them to play. Remember, You are the boss. They may hate you for a day, but it will pass as they get involved in a game that is okay for them to play.

Understanding Game Ratings

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a self-regulatory body for the video game industry, which was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association. The ESRB rates gaming titles, similar to how movies are rated, which can give parents insight to whether or not a particular game is approprate for their children to play.

Game titles have an ESRB rating on both the front and back of the box. The rating on the back will also show content descriptors that indicate what in the game may be inappropriate for children. The rating on the front may not tell the whole story. For example, one of the content descriptors is called "comic mischeif", which the ESRB defines as, "Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor." Based on this information, you'll be able to decide based on what you feel is appropriate for your children.

The 7 Different Game Ratings

The ESRB has broken it down into 7 different ratings:

Early Childhood (EC) - Suitable for children older than 3. Contains no material parents would find inappropriate.

Everyone (E) - May be suitable for those ages 6 and older. Games rated E may contain minimal violence, some comic mischief and/or mild language.

Everyone 10+ (E10+) - Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes.

Teen (T) - May be suitable for those ages 13 and older. Games rated T may contain violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.

Mature (M) - May be suitable for those ages 17 and older. Games rated M may contain mature sexual themes, more intense violence and/or strong language.

Adults Only (AO) - These games are not intended for anyone under the age of 18. Games rated AO may contain graphic depictions of sex and/or violence.

Rating Pending (RP) - Games rated RP have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting their final rating.

The Content Descriptors

The ESRB uses many different descriptors, which are things that triggered the games rating, or things that may be of concern to parents. Below is the list of Content Descriptors from the ESRB's website.

  • Alcohol Reference - Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
  • Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
  • Blood - Depictions of blood
  • Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
  • Cartoon Violence - Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
  • Comic Mischief - Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
  • Crude Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including "bathroom" humor
  • Drug Reference - Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
  • Edutainment - Content of product provides user with specific skills development or reinforcement learning within an entertainment setting. Skill development is an integral part of product
  • Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
  • Informational - Overall content of product contains data, facts, resource information, reference materials or instructional text
  • Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury and death
  • Language - Mild to moderate use of profanity
  • Lyrics - Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music
  • Mature Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references
  • Mild Violence - Mild scenes depicting characters in unsafe and/or violent situations
  • Nudity - Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
  • Partial Nudity - Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
  • Real Gambling - Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Sexual Themes - Mild to moderate sexual references and/or depictions. May include partial nudity
  • Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other sexual acts
  • Simulated Gambling - Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed - Intended for very young ages
  • Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
  • Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music
  • Strong Sexual Content - Graphic references to and/or depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity
  • Suggestive Themes - Mild provocative references or materials
  • Tobacco Reference - Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
  • Use of Drugs - The consumption or use of illegal drugs
  • Use of Alcohol - The consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • Use of Tobacco - The consumption of tobacco products
  • Violence - Scenes involving aggressive conflict

Understand Why and What Your Child Plays

As children age, they are probably going to play games that you may not like, whether you want them to or not. While it is easier to stop them at home, it is more difficult at a friend's house.

Consider talking to your children about the games that they play. What makes the game compelling for them? What do they think it means? What differentiates the game they are playing from real life? Once you ask them these kinds of questions, you may be surprised at the answers you get. You'll probably find that your kids are seeing it for entertainment value only, and not for an excuse to carry out what they play in real life. As in most cases, good parenting means being involved in what they do, and understanding that their taste in entertainment may greatly differ from yours.


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