PEGI, video games, age ratings

Should we let kids play video games?

Originally published on 1001Up:

It should be simple really. PEGI give a game a legally-enforceable rating; parents read the rating; parents forbid their child from playing. Problem solved! Any parent who lets their child have access to titles above their age is clearly not doing their job, right? Sure. Uh huh.

Cast your mind back to when you were a kid, how – if you wanted to watch something your parents wouldn’t let you – there was always a way around. You could find a friend with an older sibling or you would weave the world’s most convincing argument as to why you should be allowed to do something. If push came to shove, you could always wheel out the classic ‘But all my friends have seen it..!’

And this is the ultimate dilemma when it comes to gaming. It’s no longer niche, it’s big business, and the latest blockbuster games have a larger advertising budget than most movies. You’d expect nothing less of a multi-billion dollar industry that lives by the sales of its products. Kids and teens are bombarded with high quality advertising of games that they can’t have, but they want.

Trust me, you want the absolute best for your children; and when they’re coming at you explaining that if they don’t have Call of Duty they’ll be a social pariah at school, the mind starts to question its judgement. Surely these games can’t be that bad? What if I let them play this one, the one their friends are playing? The parents of those kids must think its ok. And if my child is telling me there’s a way to disable all the violence, swearing and gore in the title then they must be telling the truth so…

It’s not easy.

There isn’t a straight forward answer either. Like all parenting decisions it depends on more factors than initially meets the eye. Emotional age of the children must surely by one of the principal considerations, as will be parenting style and understanding of the medium. I know I’m in a fortunate position in that I’ve much more exposure to the type and nature of the video gaming world than other parents of my generation, but it still doesn’t stop me from having to make more and more judgement calls as my kids grow older.

Education is key. Video games are markedly different now than when my generation were young and I know there are many 30- to 50-year-olds who don’t quite appreciate how the medium has evolved. Getting parents interested and able to talk to their kids frankly and openly about what they want to play is vital. These games have PEGI ratings for a reason, and the medium is so huge now that there is always an alternative.

This leads on to understanding children and teenagers react to games. They all play them differently and enjoy different aspects. A parent will know if their 16-year-old child is ready to handle an 18-certified game – and let’s be honest, they will end up playing them one way or another. Better to be open about it than not, at least in my opinion.

Ultimately, video games are just one of many thousands of challenges facing a parent these days. Some will put their foot down, some won’t. Some will try to strike a balance between the two extremes.

Should kids play adult games? Your call.

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