Tips For Setting Video Game Guidelines For Your Children

by : Lily Morgan

Setting guidelines for video games can be difficult. Most kids would play for hours - at least until the bathroom or the refrigerator calls them away. So how do you determine what is fair and safe for your child?

Time Limits

Your child may prefer to spend every waking moment plugged into a video game console, but healthy kids need a balanced schedule. Homework, chores, outdoor play, and family time need to take precedence over video games. Video games are a reward for completing tasks. Set a time limit for each day's maximum gaming time.

A good guideline for children aged 5-10 is 30-60 minutes a day, with a few extra minutes allowed on weekends. Up to two hours per day is appropriate for teens and pre-teens, as long as homework and chores are completed.

An egg timer is a good tool for tracking game time. The timer begins once play starts. When the bell sounds, the child must save and exit the game immediately. Parents may be tempted to allow the child to finish the current game or level when the alarm sounds, but some children are crafty. They take advantage of this lenience to extend playing time.

Monitoring Video Game Content

A standardized rating system tags each video game to levels of appropriateness for different age ranges. This rating system is a general guideline only. Just because a game is rated "E" for everyone does not mean the game is free of offensive language, actions and themes.

Each family must decide what is unacceptable. Discuss and draft these family guidelines with your children. Spell out clear consequences for violating guidelines. These guidelines apply to the child whether the game is played at home or at a friend's house, as well as when other children bring games into your home.

If you are unsure of a video game, rent the game and play it when the child is not present to preview the content. Most salespersons at gaming stores are very knowledgeable of many of the games they sell. They can usually tell you if a particular game violates your family's guidelines. You can also check the annual Video Game Report Card produced by the National Institute on Media and the Family. The Entertainment Software Rating Board website contains in-depth information about the video game rating system as well.

One of the best ways to monitor your child's video game habits is to play with them. Plug in an extra controller once a week and spend a few minutes appreciating your child's video game skills. This can be a period of bonding even into the troublesome teenage years.

Video games do have some redeeming qualities. They are entertaining for your child, encourage fantasy play, build imagination, increase eye/hand coordination, teach strategy, and can be educational. They also teach younger children to share, lose, and win gracefully. Time spent with a video game controller also strengthens the small muscles in a child's hands, resulting in better handwriting and small motor control.

Video games are a popular pastime for children, but they require parental supervision the same as other areas of your child's life. Become involved, get informed, set limits, and reap the benefits of your child's love of video gaming.