My child wants THAT video game?! 7 Secrets to Help Answer the Big Question
By Melody Bergman
This is the first article in a three-part series addressing video games and the fan culture that surrounds them. In our fast-paced digital world, parents need all the tools we can get interpreting the gaming world (media literacy) and teaching our young gamers how to participate in in a healthy, responsible way (digital citizenship).
I heard the name of the game whispered on the wind. I knew it was coming, and of course it did. My son finally approached me and asked, “Hey Mom! Can I have THAT game?”
We parents might have different ideas about what “THAT game” is, but these days it’s only a matter of time before it comes a-knockin’ at the front door–or even sneaks in the back. Either way it’s now a force to be reckoned with. Now what?
- To ban or not to ban? Every home is different. Family values, game ratings, age of the child—all of these will come into play. In general, though, try to keep an open mind. Don’t knee-jerk. Also, be sure to include your child in the decision-making progress. When kids are involved, you are more likely to have buy-in on the solution.
- Take your time. When kids have a particularly difficult question—especially regarding digital media—pause and think. If you don’t want to answer right away, then don’t. Instead, say “I need to think about it,” or “Why don’t we take some time to look into it?” At my house we often have several discussions before making a tough decision.
- There are no short-cuts. This is going to take some time, but it’s worth it! Don’t be tempted to scan the cover, accept or reject the game based solely on the rating, hand it to your kid (or not), and walk away. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, the rating system for video games isn’t always reliable (McGrath, 2015). It’s our responsibility as parents to do our homework and make the final decision.
- Do your research. Ideally, I like to beat my kids to the punch. But this isn’t always possible and sometimes we get blind-sided. Either way … Stop! Take a research break before jumping to conclusions–good or bad. Pop the name of the game into Google and start reading reviews, blogs, gamer forums—whatever you can find. Explore details about the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating system at here. Also one of my favorite resources, Common Sense Media has a page dedicated to video game reviews especially for parents..
- Ask questions. Even if you’ve done some research, don’t assume you know everything. Other parents and gamers have their opinions, but this is your child. Talk to her. Find out what she knows about it, and ask why she wants to play. Ask what friends are saying. Don’t just talk about the video game itself–also address the emotions and context surrounding the game. This should be a discussion (i.e., two-way communication), not a lecture (one-way communication).
- Discover together. When I’m talking to my children about media, I often ask questions even though I think I already know the answer. For instance I might ask, “Is there any profanity in that game?” Even if I know the answer, we still talk about it. Mostly I listen. If they are uninformed, we go online together and “discover” information. This way we are learning together. That’s much more effective than me wagging a finger in their faces.
- Be creative. Often, we assume we have to tell our children either “yes” or “no.” But life isn’t always that straightforward. Digital media contains massive gray areas, and the next generation will be much better equipped if we teach our kids to think outside the box.
Let’s go back to the original question: “Mom, can I have that game?”
With the last video game query at our house, the answer was: “Yes, BUT only with supervision.” That turned out to be a win-win. Great compromise. Everybody was happy.
But now we have THAT game in our house. And I’m not gonna lie–my little dude is getting a wee bit obsessed. And that is a topic for another day.
For more discussions to help you strengthen and connect with your kids, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, available on here.
Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and creator of the blog MamaCrossroads (http://mamacrossroads.com). She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Melody has made it her mission to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect their children. Her experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.
McGrath, Mary. (26 Jan 2015). “Parents’ duty to make call on video games for kids.” American Academy of Pediatrics News. Retrieved from http://www.aappublications.org/content/36/2/28.5