Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Parental involvement in video games is OK with me

Right now as I type this, my son and 2 friends are playing Halo2 on the PS2. The kids are all over 15, and they play mostly what I consider semi-violent games. Yes, there is shooting in this game, as in many others, but it's not particularly realistic, seeing as there are androids trying to save their planet. Its kind of like Star Wars games, where there is shooting, but it's not more drastic than any Star Wars movie. Halo 2 is rated Mature, which means 17+ should play this game. I'd certainly agree with this rating, but I know plenty of kids who cajole their parents into buying it at a much younger age.

I tend to follow the ESRB rating guidelines, which are clearly spelled out on their web site. The guidelines tell you what content in the games is objectionable, just like movie ratings do. Every family should be able to decide what they want in their home. For me, any realistic shooting game is out. This means that I would never allow Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt into my home.

ESRB ratings have two equal parts:

  • Rating Symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game, and appear on the front of virtually every game box available for retail sale or rental in the United States and Canada.
  • Content Descriptors, which appear on the back next to the rating symbol, indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern.
Manhunt is the latest extremely violent game. It is rated M for Mature, meaning that it's for 17+, but they only got that designation after they edited out a few really objectionable scenes from the original game. Manhunt contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Use of Drugs in the game. It's certainly not a game I would want my child to play, nor one I would allow into our home.

Many parents don't understand that the ratings on the video game packages can be altered by the manufacturer to get that M rating. An A, Adults Only rating is video game death, similar to an X rating for films. No manufacturer wants that A rating, so they make the game objectionable, but work to keep out certain scenes that cross the line. Personally, I want to choose what is MY line in the sand, and I'll allow some 17+ games to be played, even though my son isn't yet 17.

If adults in your home also play video games, and have games that they do not want children to play, it is possible to put parental controls on your game box to lock your kids out. You can find the complete guide to setting parental controls for your particular gaming system here. I've become a master at parental controls because I use them as a way to ensure that my child bends to my will. No, really, I use them as a disciplinary method when certain Boys in my family (there is only one) tend to disregard the rules and regulations. Locking a child out of the computer, the TV, and the Xbox is a great way to ensure that your child isn't going to be sneaking around your back. Locked out means they can't use the machine, period. Heh.

I know that there are a lot of parents out there that despise video games and swear that they'll never have a game box in their home. Meet me, for example. I was dead set against getting our gaming machine. My son begged for a long long time and my constant answer was "I'll never spend MY money on one, but if you buy one, I won't refuse to allow you to play it." He bought his Xbox, and he's bought every single game he owns, and there are plenty of them. Most of them he gets used from the local Newbury Comics down the street. I won't spend a penny on the damn thing, but the enjoyment he gets out of it makes me question my stubbornness sometimes. By the time your kid is a teen, video games are a big part of their social milieu, especially if you have boys. Rather than taking a stand that makes your child different than his peers, I think it's a lot better to set rules about what is and isn't an acceptable game. This tends, at least in my home, to keep the stress factor to a minimum, and allows your child to play all sorts of games that you don't really hate. It works for us!

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Blogger JUST A MOM said...

Hi how are you, I can to your blog as you had stoped by mine. I have read your first 2 posts and plan to skim some others in the past. Nice to meer you. Stop by again,


11/11/07 12:40 AM  
Blogger Daisy said...

Great post. Are you considering cross-posting it on Mid-Century Moms? It's very appropriate.

11/11/07 10:12 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Good idea, Daisy. Thanks!

11/11/07 11:54 PM  
Blogger melissa said...

I have issues with some of the game ratings. Some E games I truly question as E and some T games I think are ok. But I take everything on a case by case basis.

My husband is a mild gamer, so our sons are, too. And it is a very social experience for them. But I think your stance is cool. It's a good compromise.

12/11/07 12:15 PM  

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