Video Games for Christmas?

Are video games a good idea, or not?

By FamilyTime

 If you have school-age kids and teenagers, chances there will be at least one video game under the tree. Are they good or bad for kids?

Recently, some experts have argued that video games are beneficial for kids. They help them develop problem-solving and decision-making skills. Of course, this does not mean all video games are created equal and parents still must be vigilant.

The thinking goes that when kids play the games, they manage several levels of activities at once and work toward completing specific tasks. Success is rewarded, and when they conquer the different levels of a game, the players feel satisfied and proud. This, the professionals say, is excellent for cognitive growth.

Regardless of these findings, parents are faced with the question: Should we let our kids play video games…endlessly?

Hours and Hours of Gaming
According to people who keep track of these statistics, the video game industry is thriving and is predicted to grow by approximately 5 percent a year at least through 2015.

Not all of the games sold are for kids — plenty of adults enjoy gaming, as well — but the games are pervasive with youngsters. Experts calculate that some children spend 13 or more hours a week playing video games.

Even if the kids are benefiting from the games, and undoubtedly many are, that’s a lot of time that could be spent otherwise. It's important for our kids to play outdoors, participate in sports, spend time with their families and their friends, and, last but not least, keep up with their schoowork.

Video Games and Aggression
The problems, the experts agree, seems to lie with violent games. Even if a game does not involve blood and gore, it may promote aggressive behavior. When this behavior is rewarded and then repeated over and over, some children might show signs of increased belligerence.

This worries many parents, educators, and child psychologists.

In an effort to help parents monitor the games their children play, the industry puts ratings on the games for sale and for rent. The ratings are:

EC for Early Childhood: Content is intended for young children.

E for Everyone: Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

E 10+ for Everyone Older than 10: Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes.

T for Teen: Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and older. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.

M for Mature 17+: Content may be suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

AO for Adults Only: Content suitable only for adults. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.

RP: Rating Pending: Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game's rating once it has been assigned.

For more on these rating, go to

Parental Involvement Beyond ensuring that your kids play games rated suitable for their ages, parents should take other precautions. Regardless of the benefits, too much of any one thing is not a good thing, and so it’s a good idea to limit the hours your kids game.

Just as you limit television viewing, enforce strict rules for the number of hours your children can play video games. If you start young, your kids will develop a pattern of curtailing their gaming habits, or at least be conscious of the need to do so.

Play the games with your kids — and don’t be upset if they beat you! Talk about any part of the game that seems especially exciting or, on the other hand, somewhat questionable. If you have concerns, put the game away until the child is older (at which time the game will probably be totally out of date!), or restrict its play to the older children.

Video games are here to stay. Consider their good points and then watch for their negatives —like a hawk!