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Parents: What Games (If Any) Are Off Limits for Your Kids?

Do you let 'em play whatever they want, or do you put your foot down?
This article is over 10 years old and may contain outdated information

Children and violent video games. It’s an ongoing debate and it won’t die down any time soon. The more realistic interactive entertainment becomes, the more responsible adults will question the possible impact of such entertainment on young minds.

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If you have children, what’s your stance on games?

Let’s just say for the sake of argument that your kids are into video games, and they’re all sorts of interested in playing the latest and greatest. What’s off-limits? What’s borderline? What are you perfectly okay with?

Age vs. Maturity

I always hear this:

“My child is very mature for his age.”

The age vs. maturity issue is always tricky because parents typically want to believe their child is a cut above.

Actually, I have yet to meet a parent who doesn’t believe this, so it doesn’t hold much water. And I hate to say this, but parents usually aren’t the best people to objectively judge a child’s maturity level, as any psychologist will tell you.

That being said, do you put more weight on your kid’s age or his or her maturity, based on your perception? In other words, do you let your 12-year-old play the newest Grand Theft Auto because he “can handle it,” or do you simply say it’s out of the question? The age vs. maturity issue is always tricky because parents typically want to believe their child is a cut above.

Why not just use the ESRB ratings?

Any game that’s rated “M” (Mature) is for 17 years of age and older. It’s pretty straightforward. Do you go by the ratings? Personally, I’ve always thought the ESRB does a fantastic job; they’re even stricter than the MPAA when it comes to ratings, in my experience. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to go by the ESRB’s ratings when deciding which games your children should be allowed to play.

Of course, this just runs back into the first point, because your kid might be “older than he seems,” or something like that. Also, ratings like T (Teen) can be difficult to interpret sometimes, especially when the content of the game in question is a mystery. Not all parents with children are avid video game players, remember.

Are you stricter with games, or do the same restrictions apply to movies, music, etc.?

Some say the interactive nature of gaming can be more dangerous for developing minds. Do you believe that? If you do, you’re probably more worried about your child playing a violent video game as opposed to watching a violent movie, right? Or, are you fairly consistent across all entertainment mediums? It’s probably best to do that, so the kid doesn’t get confused somewhere along the way, and you’re forced to explain your inconsistency.

There’s always this, too: Parents will sometimes claim that the stricter they get, the more the child resists. In other words, the more they say a child can’t have something, the more he or she wants it. Well, duh. The key is to walk that fine line, so the kid isn’t out searching for ways to sneak the newest God of War into the house, just to rebel.

Legit questions from a non-parent

For the record, I don’t have any kids, so I’m not about to lecture. These are simply questions for those who do have children, that’s all. All I’ll say is that I’m not a big fan of explaining why you’re refusing to let a kid play a certain game. “It’s too violent” should be sufficient; I know it’s considered the “enlightened” thing to sit the child down and explain in detail why they shouldn’t play it. Yeah, well, as far as I can tell, all that does is arouse new interest in the mind of the youngster and regardless of what’s said, they’re all the more determined to play it.

This is why I don’t believe in teaching 8-year-olds about condoms, either, by the way. But that’s another topic for another day. 🙂

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A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.