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Violent Video Games: Are They Appropriate for Kids?

You know better than anybody else where your children stand developmentally and temperamentally, and no one can make a better decision than you about what games are appropriate for them to play. The best thing you can do as a parent is to familiarize yourself with the games your kids want to play - sit down and play a round or two before your child has at it.

You can also get an idea of the nature of the game by its rating. All video games are rated by an independent organization called the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. The ESRB assigns each game one of the following ratings:

  • EC – Early Childhood
  • E – Everyone
  • E10+ – Everyone 10 and Older
  • T – Teen
  • M – Mature
  • AO – Adults Only

EC and AO ratings are extremely rare. The other ratings can be roughly equated with the movie ratings you're probably familiar with. The E rating is equivalent to a G rating in the film world, while a game rated M can be reasonably compared to an R-rated film - in other words, M-rated games are not for kids.

But that one-letter rating can only tell you so much, and in this case one size doesn't necessarily fit all. On the back of every video game case, you'll see a short explanation for the ESRB's rating. The reasons could be violence, language, and/or sexual content, among others. A game rated T that depicts fantasy violence might not bother you as much as a T-rated game that features mild profanity. The rating is an excellent start, but check the video game case for additional information.

To learn more about a game, try reading what people on the Web have to say about it. The most popular video-game review sites, such as IGN.com and Gamespot.com, aren't necessarily writing with parents in mind. But by reading their reviews, you'll get a better idea of a specific game's thematic content. You can also find sites that speak directly to parents, such as WhatTheyPlay.com or GamingwithChildren.com.

Remember, too, that the majority of popular games these days are intended to be enjoyed by the whole family. The Nintendo Wii was created with inclusiveness as its mission, and several of its most popular games, like Wii Sports, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, and Mario Party, contain no violence and are meant to be played together. If your child expresses interest in a game that contains inappropriate content, it's likely there's a suitable alternative elsewhere on the shelf.



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