This is a question that will resonate for many parents. “All my friends are doing it” probably was a woeful cry of cave boys and girls!!
There are a couple of things to consider here:
a) Where do you check out games your child is interested in? Several sites including Entertainment Software Rating Board (www.ESRB.org ) Pixelkin and Common Sense Media review games from an age and family perspective. MY favourite go to site for all things media is Dr. Michael Rich at ‘Ask the Mediatrician’ (from Harvard) The mantra is USE THE INTERNET to learn more about the games, as many are nonviolent and have excellent ratings.
b) What if we have house guidelines, what do we do about other houses where they can play the game? Again an age old dilemma!! SO first, follow your guidelines and DO NOT cave in and buy the game. It is so very important that we use positive discipline techniques with our children in this situation. Rather than saying ‘You can’t go over there to play’ (if that’s what they do - brick wall authoritarian parent), but have a conversation instead and set out/review family guidelines and expectations. ‘You know how much we value nonviolence as a family so it’s hard for me to know you might be playing a violent game over there. What guidelines should we be thinking about that would help?’
Ideally your child will say ‘Mum I get it, We’ll play for a while and then go outside’ (the perfect kid next door!!), or say ‘Mum playing this game does not interfere with me knowing we have to be kind and caring and it will not make me a violent offender’ (much more likely). Let them know your concerns but also that you trust and believe in them.
c) Does the game have an open chat component? If so, it is important to have a conversation with your child what is age appropriate and perhaps find the settings that disengage the chat components if they are not mature enough.
Having our children become better consumers of gaming is a reality and we should be thinking of ways to educate, inform and learn together, rather than getting into control struggles as much as possible.
AND discover fun things for kids to do outside so they have more of a balanced exposure.