Controlling Kids’ Video Game Usage

Should I permit my child to play video games? If I do decide to let video games into my home, which games should I allow and how can I maintain control over the kind of gaming in which my child becomes involved?

The fact that you’re even raising this question is a good sign that you’re on the right track. Many moms and dads pay relatively little attention to the content of the video and computer games that come into their homes, even though their kids end up spending hours and hours of precious time exposing themselves to the images and ideas promoted in those games.

Here at Focus on the Family we believe it’s vital that parents take the time to find out what kind of entertainment is influencing their family. Only you can decide if you want to allow your kids to participate in gaming. But if you’re going to allow video games at all, be sure that you’re actively involved in the buying process. Below are a few helpful reminders to keep in mind when purchasing video games:

    1. Always check ratings. Reading the ratings is a good start, but remember that the video-game industry rating system in not infallible when it comes to determining what content is appropriate for families. A game like Grand Theft Auto is a good example. Bear in mind too that, despite the rating, sometimes there are “cheat codes” players can use to alter the content. No matter what the rating on the package says, parents should research the material to ensure that the content is appropriate for their family.


    1. Read expert reviews and consult other parents. Take the time to research games that your child wants to play. Read online reviews. Al Menconi Ministries offers video-game reviews at Focus on the Family’s
      Plugged In Online also offers reviews of popular video games. Exchange knowledge about games with other parents. This can help parents decide whether to pursue a game with their children, or avoid the game once they realize that the material is not suitable.


    1. Rent or borrow video games before buying. Video games can be very expensive, and game consoles are even more costly. Before plunking down the money for a high-priced game, try borrowing the game from the library, renting it from a game-rental outlet, or even borrowing a game from a friend. Some stores sell previously owned games. Check return policies and trade-in possibilities before purchasing a game.


    1. Set time limits and gaming rules for your family. Before gaming, set clear time limits and rules. Mom and Dad should decide what the time limits and rules will be. Remember to be consistent with enforcing those limits and rules. As the parent, you have the right to decide what games are allowed into your home. You might want to set parental controls if your gaming console or computer game has that option.


  1. Try the game yourself or take time to watch your child play. Playing video games with your child, or at least watching your child play a game, gives you a firsthand knowledge of the content. Try renting a few multi-player games and letting the whole family get involved. Even just watching your child play can provide teachable moments. Your child will be more likely to talk about the game with you if you’re aware of what it’s about.

If you’d like to discuss this issue with a member of our staff, feel free to get in touch with Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. Our trained counselors would be more than happy to speak with you over the phone.

If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Becoming a Screen-Savvy Family

Parenting Generation Screen

Screen Kids

Plugged In

Video Games

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