A Parents' Guide To Video Game Content
There's no doubt about it: over the last 30 years, video games have become an integral part of our homes and have fundamentally changed the way our children play. Parents are concerned not only about how much time kids spend playing video games, but also what kind of content they're being exposed to. Here's a parents' guide.
Many of today's parents are probably part of the first generation of video gamers; back in the 1970's, they played games like Asteroids, Pac-Man, Pong, and Q-Bert. The content of games could be counted on to be fairly innocuous, with no blood and guts or violence. With the rapid advances in technology that has taken place since those more innocent days has come a parallel advance in the maturity of video game content.
Today's parents therefore have more to worry beyond their children's not spending as much time out of doors as they used to: they also have to fret about what kind of images are seeping into their kids' brains. Unfortunately, parents don't often play the same games as their children do, and are often clueless as to their content. In order to help, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) came out with a ratings system to help parents make more informed purchasing decisions.
Each video game on the market today has a two part rating: one is an age appropriateness symbol meant to suggest good age parameters, and the other is a content descriptor which alerts parents as to what elements in a game may be considered objectionable or have earned the game its particular rating. In order to make a completely informed decision, parents need to pay attention to both ratings.
Age appropriateness symbols include EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), T (Teen), M (Mature), AO (Adults Only), and RP (Rating Pending). Because every family is different, and every set of parents may have different standards they adhere to than the next, the ESRB added the second part of the rating: the content descriptor.
A game that has been rated as T (Teen) may have mild or even strong profanity, suggestive material, or contain violence. If so, the content descriptor will give an explanation and parents can make up their own minds about whether or not to allow the game in their homes.
They key here is for parents to remain vigilant about the kinds of games their children are into, set certain standards, then talk to their kids about what is and isn't allowed in their home. Games can be great entertainment tools for the whole family, but only if they are kept under controlled supervision.