A video game is like candy. We let them have it, try to monitor it, we moderate their intake, all while feeling guilty for letting them have it at all. Once the get a taste of either, an uphill battle ensues. When you live with a family with a gaming teen (I have a step-teen) and an spouse who plays video games, it’s only a matter of time before the youngest family member will start playing, too. Oh sure, it’ll start out innocently enough, with just watching. Then the youngest will start playing. Even when you limit the video game playing time, extracting your kids from the exciting game can be a struggle. What’s a mom to do?
Delay video gaming for as long as possible – Protect your youngest kids from watching and playing the video games as long as you can. Once they start it becomes a major part of their lives and conversations. This can be extremely difficult when your spouse is not in agreement with you about the right age to start game playing.
Use video games as a reward – Let kids earn their video game time with good listening and behavior. Give them tokens or stars to earn half and hour of gaming time.
Limit video game playing with a timer – One huge issue with some video game console games is that there is no good place to quit. The child will ask if he can play until a “save” point or until he reaches the next level. The problem is this is usually an extra 30 minutes at minimum. Many of the popular PS3 Lego game are set up this way.
Monitor video game play – Beware of the “E” for Everyone rating on some video games. The appropriate age group for “E” for Everyone is for ages six and up. A similar rating is “E10+.” This is the most problematic group of games for kids ages six to 10. They have some violence (think “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars”) and they can be too difficult for some kids. They can become a source of frustration rather than fun, even when the child is playing with an adult.
Buy educational hand-held games – There are educational hand-held games available that teach everything from early penmanship to spelling, reading, math and geography.
Play online games together – Become your child’s video game partner and find games to play together. If you play FarmVille (no, of course you don’t), it’s a good way to let your child learn how to use a mouse and basic computer navigation. Starfall has educational games for early readers. The point is to find games that increase not diminish your time together.