Playing video games can reduce stress, lighten depression, improve vision, improve multitasking ability, and improve decision-making skillsi, in addition to being entertaining. Obesity, depression, poor grades, addictive behavior, and increased aggressive or violent behaviorii have all been linked to online gaming.

When faced with seemingly contradictory research findings, parents should take the time to learn about the games their children are playing, as well as the safety settings and features of the devices on which they are playing games, and then use common sense when it comes to their children’s online gaming opportunities. Recognize that what works for one child might not be the best combination for another.

What exactly does the term “video game” imply?

The term “video game” refers to anything from a solo game of Solitaire to massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) with entire virtual universes where players interact with one another and transactions – usually points or game enhancements, but sometimes real money – are made.

Computers and laptops, handheld devices, game consoles, and, increasingly, phones and tablets are used to play video games. Some games are bought and installed on devices, while others are downloaded from the internet and only played online.

Video games are popular among people of all ages: older women are the most likely to play simple single-player games, while young men are the most likely to play “war games.” Users ranging in age from eight to eighty play the massively multiplayer games. Some games are educational, while others are gruesomely violent and contain graphic sexual content. Many games, however, are designed to be played in the same room with friends or family, and many of these games are a great way for families to interact and spend time together.

Games are rated to assist parents and children in determining the type of content contained in each game.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assesses video and computer games and assigns a rating system akin to movie ratings so that parents can make educated decisions before purchasing a game.

There are two parts to these ESRB ratings: 1) adjectives to help parents understand what factors went into the rating score, and 2) symbols to suggest acceptable ages for players. You must consider both criteria to effectively use the ESRB rating system. Check the content descriptors and the rating symbol (on the front of the game box) (on the back of the game box).

Learn about gaming gadgets’ capabilities and safety features.

Family safety settings (also known as parental controls) are available on today’s game consoles, allowing parents to set time limits, block inappropriate games, and determine whether users can interact with only their friends, any other gamer, or not at all. Specific instructions for setting these settings can be found on the game console’s websites, or you can look at A Parent’s Guide to Video Games, Parental Controls, and Online Safety for more information.

To set the same types of limits on computers, you can use the built-in family protection tools or parental control software that you install yourself. Handheld devices have control settings as well, and one to pay attention to is whether you allow Bluetooth connections, which allow others to interact with your child via this device.

Keep in mind that if the game is played online and allows players to interact, the safety settings and controls do not monitor the conversations that occur within the game. While the majority of talks will be appropriate, some people may choose to act inappropriately. If your child interacts with others, talk to them about the dangers of bullying, cheaters, and people who are overly friendly (or other grooming behavior). For younger children, there are a variety of online gaming sites that are specifically designed for children, with content moderators monitoring discussions. These might be the best choice for you.