Top 8 questions parents have about games

video game questionsWant to make timely and informed video game purchases for your family? Our team of video game experts is on hand to answer your burning questions, just send it in!

1) Video games are known to be very violent. How do I know if a video game is appropriate for my child?

The easiest way to get a glimpse at the content in a game that you might purchase for your children is known as the ESRB guide. (Link to our ESRB section) The Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, is an independent company that examines the content of games before they're released. Similar to how films are rated, the ESRB has different ratings that help guide you to what is appropriate for different age ranges. There are also "descriptors" listed on the games, outlining specifically what may be offensive; violence, crude humor, sexual situations and many more. Visit our ESRB guide to see the entire list of descriptors and to also see the different age ranges, including where to find them on the every video game box sold in the United States.

2) Games seem to make my child anti-social. Is there any way to prevent that?

The big thing about gaming, and most things in general, is moderation. Depending on your child's age, a certain amount of time should be allotted for gaming (and each family varies on the amount of time they're allowed to budget). Also, a great idea would be to maybe have a "gaming party" so your child can play those games with his friends in person and not online.

3) Do educational games really work?

There has been a long debate on whether video games labeled as "educational" actually make children smarter, and the truth is, the jury is still out. There have been some games sold as "educational" that have been tested and have shown that they really don't have much of an effect on a child's intelligence. Yet there are also some games that are quite stimulating and also have specific learning exercises that are fun to play. Check out our Educational Gaming Guide for more specifics.

4) How do I protect my child from the risks of consoles that have online capabilities and opportunities for them to talk with strangers?

First off, the basic rules you already use with your children are easily applied to the online world. Remind your kids not to chat with strangers online and to NEVER give out personal information about themselves or the family. It is also always a good idea to check out the sites your children frequent and pay particular attention to sites that collect personal information. If you don't agree with the privacy statement of a particular site or if you don't want to give away any of your child's personal information, a little searching may lead you to a similar site that doesn't request any information at all. You can also block inappropriate content from your children by enabling the parental controls provided with most new systems.

5) Will my child become obese from playing video games?

When played in moderation, and incorporated with outdoor activities, gaming should not make your child obese. If your child plays for hours and hours on end, maybe give him or her a set amount of time that they are allowed to play. Also, if it's a big concern, look into physical activities that your child can play at school, or maybe, activities that they can play with you.

6) What video game system is appropriate for my child?

Depending on your child's age, there can be appropriate systems for them. For instance, the games and style of the PS3 would not fit a 2-10 year old, but may be fine for older children. Young children generally play a lot of computer games, no console required. But with the advent of the Wii and the Nintendo DS, those are geared toward a younger audience and offer mostly clean content, yet still look at the rating on individual games to make sure you know what they'll experience. Our console guide can help you make a fully informed decision before you lay out the big bucks.

7) What video games would my young daughter enjoy?

Gaming has always been a male oriented hobby, yet recently games that interest girls are getting attention. There are games specifically geared toward girls, like the Dora the Explorer series, the Bratz series and Faeries are beautifully graphically and full of activities that girls would enjoy, like dress up and fashion oriented games. Also, most popular children's movies have video games counterparts, so if your girl is obsessed with High School Musical or Kung Fu Panda, those can be sure bets.

8) Are there any games that I can play with my children that we would both enjoy?

Sure! There are plenty nowadays, especially with the release of the Nintendo Wii. Geared toward a family market, games such as Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Wii Sports and Wii Play will not only get the both of you off the couch, but also interact and have a ton of fun. Games like Guitar Hero would also be a great addition, teaching your child hand eye coordination and tempo, but you can also see how good of a musician you are as well! With songs spanning many different styles, all of you will be able to jam to something you love.
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