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How can I tell which video games are appropriate for children?

Michele Borba
Psychology
Set clear parameters as to which games you will allow your kids to watch. Ratings established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board are prominently labeled on the outside of each video game box. (By the way, game raters include child development experts, retired school principals, teachers, as well as parents.) Teach your kid those ratings so there are no questions or arguments.

Video game ratings are:
  • EC (Early Childhood-Ages 3+): No inappropriate or objectionable material
  • E (Everyone Ages 6+): May contain minimal violence, some comic mischief, or crude language
  • T (Teen; Ages 13+) May contain violent content, mild or strong language, and suggestive themes
  • M (Mature-Ages 17+) May include more intense violence or language; mature sexual themes
  • AO (Adult Only-Ages 18+) May include graphic depiction of sex and violence
Many games appear mild at the lowest skill level but grow increasingly violent as the player’s skill increases. So if the box with the rating is missing, watch what your child is playing all the way through to the end or ask your child to give you a demo. These games can appear deceiving.

One of the most popular-sellers, “Grand Theft Auto,” begins as a fast-pace racing game, but as the player moves up in the competition (and later into the game) points are earned for knocking a policeman off his motorcycle and running down a pedestrian. You can also hire a prostitute, have sex with her, then knock her out and get the money back. Yes, such games are rated for adults, but kids say they can gain access to them easily, and many parents never watch beyond the first scenes not realizing how inappropriate content of following scenes. And a recent study found that nearly 80 percent of E rated violent games contain some violence.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.