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Ask Amy: Adult Gamers Should Sign Out Their Kids

Dear readers: Each year, I take a short break from my column to work on other projects. I will be back next week. Today’s “best of” topic from 10 years ago is about video games.

Dear Amy: My husband and my father are both video game players. A new version of their favorite game has just been released, and I learned that it was rated M-Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

Both men think it is perfectly acceptable for our 6 and 4 year old boys to watch and play this game. I equate an M rating to the equivalent of watching an R rated movie and insist that boys cannot watch or play this game.

They argue that kids have played previous versions that were also rated M (unbeknownst to me), so no harm done. I am accused of controlling.

The kids are also mad at me for pulling the plug. Am I overreacting? Should I allow limited play?

Amy says: Did your husband and father start their recreational lives as young children playing violent video games intended for adults? I suppose not.

I guess when they were kids, they exercised their imaginations and their bodies the old-fashioned way – in the backyard, on the ball diamond, or in the park. Don’t they want the same for these children?

I completely agree with you. Your children are far too young to play (or watch others play) these games.

It would be great if your kids had a dad and grandpa who cared enough about them to get off the couch and take them outside for some truly interactive play. The number of letters I get from parents of teenagers and young adults (mostly men, frankly) angsting over the hours, money, and effort spent on video games would persuade any parent to delay this activity – or at least to make sure she was old – appropriate.

These adults, who essentially co-opt children to fight with you, also provide an example of adolescent play. The kids should be left out of this entirely while the adults take care of things.

For more information on the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s rating system (including helpful tips on how families can discuss this important issue), see ESRB.org. The site includes information on how to install parental controls on various branded game systems.

It looks like you can also use “grandparent” controls. (June 2012)

Set limits

Dear Amy: My husband and I are both gamers. We’ve always had a rule that kids can’t watch or play M-rated games. We believe that if we let them break this rule, it sets a precedent for breaking others.

We limit our time playing these games and wait until they are asleep or close the door to the room. The kids’ computer is in another part of the house in a high-traffic area to keep them away from sites they need to avoid.

Because breaking the rules means losing IT privileges, they are motivated to behave.

Our children are now teenagers and have been using the computer since they were 3 years old. They complained that we kept them out of the social loop, but we stuck to our guns and they always found alternative games to play. We even found several games that the whole family finds fun to play.

Amy says: You have the courage to say “no” to something and stick with it. Good for you! You win. (June 2012)

Send your questions to Amy Dickinson at [email protected]

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