Every summer, I spend 2 hours a day driving my kids to their favorite summer camp. In addition to weekly field trips, they engage in STEM activities and learn how to cook. The camp is designed to engage kids mentally and physically, and also includes some limited video game time. Every single week my son asks if he can bring his Nintendo 3DS to summer camp and every single time he asks, the answer is the same. If (and that is a BIG IF) he wanted to spend his summer playing video games, we could do that at home (in theory, because the reality is that he would NOT be playing video games). My daughter, on the other hand, could care less about video games. She’ll spend 15 minutes (maybe) imagining she is a fashion designer and then proceed to re-enact what she’s learned on her dolls.
Many families opt to keep their kids home, which can present a serious challenge when it comes to limiting screen time. My kids are at summer camp for several hours during the day and I still find balance and limits to be a struggle. Today’s guest post about Balancing Video Games and Summer Vacation comes from Patricia Vance, President of Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). With summer here, there is understandably more hours in the day to ride a bike, read a book, explore your local park, or play video games. According to Vance, video games and mobile apps can be a great way to entertain kids during a long road trip or on a rainy summer day. But before handing over the controller or smart phone, it is important for parents to understand if the games are appropriate. Here are a few helpful tips for parents from the ESRB.
Video Games and Kids: What Parents Need To Know
Check the rating: ESRB assigns age and content ratings for “boxed” video games available in stores, and digitally delivered games and apps. For “boxed” video games, the age rating appears on the front of the package with content descriptors listed on the back. Should the game include online play with other users, you’ll also see on the back of the box “Online Interactions Are Not Rated by the ESRB.” This serves as a warning to parents that they may want to monitor or take steps to restrict their child’s online game play. For parents who want more information about a game’s content, they can read the rating summary, which provides a detailed description of the content that factored into the rating. You can search for assigned rating information on esrb.org or by downloading ESRB’s free mobile app.
Check the rating in digital storefronts too: ESRB ratings are also assigned to games that can be downloaded directly to a video game console via the internet and apps available in Google Play, the Windows Store and for Oculus VR Experiences. In addition to the familiar rating categories and content descriptors, ratings assigned to digitally delivered games and apps may also include interactive elements informing parents if certain interactive aspects are included.
Establish rules: Parents should set rules and limits for how long their kids can play games and when. For online or downloadable games, make sure children understand with whom they can and cannot play. Children should know that they are not allowed to share personal information when completing profiles, purchasing items or interacting with others online.
Set parental controls: While it’s important to talk to kids about appropriate games and online activities, parents can take extra steps to restrict their children’s access to certain games and features through parental controls. Video game consoles and mobile storefronts have parental controls that can be set to block specific games and apps based on age.
Have fun: The kids aren’t the only people in the house that can have a good time with games this summer. There are dozens of family-friendly games out there that you can play with your kids. Not only will you better understand the games they love, but you’ll discover that it’s also a great way to spend some quality family time. With these simple tips, both parents and kids can enjoy a pleasant and fun summer vacation.
Do you allow your children to play video games in the summer? If you do, how do you set boundaries and controls so that you know exactly what your child is playing and for how long?