Talking to Your Kids About Age-Appropriate Games and the ESRB


Video games can be a great educational and skill development tool for your kids, but they can also bring a lot of negative things as well. Many games in the market today tend to include violence, inapppropriate and offensive language and behavior that can change the way your children can view the world. Easy access to smartphones and tablets can allow for your child to be exposed to inappropriate video games.

For these reasons, it’s extremely important to pay attention to the games that your kids are playing. The best way to take care of that is by buying games for your kids which are specifically rated for their age. There are numerous rating systems that test the games before they are released on the market, just to check the category that those particular games appeals to. One of the best rating companies is the ESRB (“Entertainment Software Rating Board”). Talking to your child about this can be quite tricky however, as you do need to make sure that they understand that not all games are suitable for their age, and they should play only games that encourage creativity, help him acquire healthy skills, and develop healthy habits.

Here are the Rating Categories as defined by the ESRB:

  • EARLY CHILDHOOD – Content is intended for young children.
  • EVERYONE – Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
  • EVERYONE 10+ – Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
  • TEEN – Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
  • MATURE – Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
  • ADULTS ONLY – Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.
  • RATING PENDING – Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game’s rating once it has been assigned.

Some consoles allow you to place restrictions when it comes to the games that they are playing, but on the other hand you do need to be a lot more responsible and monitor any game that your kid plays. While you might not have that much time to become familiar about every game, you do need to know that game reviews are a great source of reading about the content that each game has.

If that’s not enough, you should also think about setting limits when it comes to the amount of time that your kids are allowed to play each day. As you might already know, excessive gaming can lead to addiction and that’s surely not something that anyone wants. While your kid might not understand the limits at first, explain to them that everything should be used with moderation in order to have a great life.

Enforcing age restricted gaming on your kids is actually a good thing. It allows kids to access only that type of content that’s suitable for their age instead of playing violent games with inappropriate language that might lead them into the wrong direction in life.

Mobile gaming also brings numerous perils as well, since kids can easily pay real money from your credit card because they press on the shiny buttons that the developers created specifically for that purpose. This is why restricting certain actions is surely great for your kids as it allows them to develop new skills and learn things suitable for their age. We recommend all parents to take extra care in regards to everything that their kids are playing and also talk to them frequently regarding the importance of studying, reading and learning outside the video game world, as kids always tend to be attracted more than they need to by the video game and the virtual worlds they explore.

Stay connected with what your child is doing on the computer, video game console, tablet/smartphone and any other electronic device. Stress the importance of moderation with gaming, and that they should not be playing games that are not suited for them (based on ESRB ratings). If you are going to purchase a game with your child at the local video game store, be sure to pay attention to the ESRB label to make sure that it’s age-appropriate. A quick check on video game review sites such as gamerwithkids.com can help you become aware of what the game is about, and whether it’s appropriate for your child.

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