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The Games Teens Play:  Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Video Games

Video games are in many ways the bane of modern parenting.  Teens seem to love nothing as much as losing themselves in an alternative video universe.  They can spend hours in front of a screen doing everything from racing cars to shooting bad guys to creating alternative families.  Because video games are so important to teens, they must be important to their parents.

One of the first areas of concerns about video games is the violence and sexuality.  In response to parental demands, video games now carry ratings similar to those carried by movies.  In fact, teens under 18 cannot purchase certain games without parental approval.  This is a boon to many parents since it allows us tighter control of what our teens are playing.

The next concern that most of us feel concerns the amount of time our teens spend playing video games.  Like all things in life, games provide us with an opportunity to teach our teens balance. There are three ways to limit the amount of time your teen spends on games.

  • Limit the amount of time your teen spends on games to a daily absolute, i.e. 1 hour.
  • Limit the amount of time he spends compared to something else.  For instance, allow 1 hour of play for each hour he spends studying.
  • Allow him to play as much as he likes, but only after he has completed his homework, chores, etc.

Finally, consider using video games to bring your family closer together.  My daughter laughs hysterically when I try “Dance, Dance Revolution”, but seeing me fail at something makes her feel more comfortable with who I am as a person.  Likewise, my husband occasionally allows our son to use him as "cannon fodder" in his war games.  Our son loves getting the best of dad and they have a good laugh together over my husband's video incompetence.

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