5 things parents should know before buying video games

If you have kids you probably know a little something about video games. But there are so many games and so many systems it can be overwhelming. Where to start? What games to buy?

At Wired Moms we don’t just like video games we LOVE video games. It is a great way for families to spend time together but there is also an additional benefit. When you are sitting side by side with your kid playing games together your kid will often begin to open up about their day or about their concerns and you can have some real conversations with them that you might not be able to have without the buffer of the video game.

No matter what system you have there are a couple of things you should do before getting started (and if you are already into it there is still time).

1. MAKE A LIST

We are big into making lists before going shopping for anything. Impulse buying can be a budget buster. Talk with your kids about the games they want to get and what it is about the game that is interesting. Find out their likes and dislikes. This way if they are too young for a particular game you may be able to research the games together and find one that is more age appropriate. There are more games than ever out there and more options for the younger gamer too.

PRO TIP: Video Games are a treat – not actually a necessity for basic life support like food, water and shelter. Kids should somehow earn each new game and continue to earn the priviledge of playing the games. If they earn the game by doing extra chores, setting a goal in school and achieving it, or working on a project in their community, then they will learn to appreciate the value these games play in their lives.

2. CHECK OUT THE ESRBs.

Know the video game rating system. Our recommendation is to stick as closely to the rating system as possible. The good thing is that all the games are rated so if your 6 year old is asking for HALO because all of his friends have the game you can point to the ESRB rating and let them know that you are not the bad guy but other people have decided that 6 is too young to be killing aliens.

ESRB WEBSITE (CLICK HERE)

Their website is great because you can look in advance at the games you are interested in by name or rating or content. If you only want to browse games that are rated E (for everyone) you can do that easily with your kid before making your video game wish list.

The ESRB also has an easy to use app that you can add to your facebook wall and all you have to do is to type in the name of the video game and it will take you right to the page that gives you all the information you will need to know in advance before buying a new game.

PRO TIP: Our kids are counting on you. Many kids in the Wired Moms circle have been patient and have waited to earn the right and the priviledge to kill zombies. They are counting on you to keep your 11 year old out of their game.

3. GET GAME SMART

No matter what platform you use (Xbox, Wii, Playstation) Microsoft has developed a great website for parents and kids to use to learn how to be responsible gamers. GetGameSmart.com has great content for every member of the family but one of the things we love the most here at Wired Moms are the tools on the site for families to talk about the Family Rules for playing games. They provide the tools to initiate the conversation on setting limits, implementing the family settings on new games, and making a plan for balancing video play with school work and real life.

PRO TIP: Spend 15 minutes talking with your kids and establishing the guidelines for what is ok in your own house before beginning to play. It will save you hours of antaganism down the road.

4. PLAY WITH YOUR KID

Your job is not done when you pay for the game at the store. You don’t have to spend the same amount of time playing the games as the kids do but you do need to know what they are playing. In a recent study by Carnagie Mellon University kids will play approximately 10,000 hours of video games by the time they are 21. To put that in perspective, if your child had perfect attendance at school from 5th grade to graduation day from High School they will have spent 10,080 hours studying. So, it appears that our kids are playing games as much as they are spending on their studies. We really should have an interest in what they are playing.

PRO TIP: Get a couple of games that you enjoy playing too. If you have a good balance of games that everyone in the house likes to play then you will be more likely to spend time playing together.

5. KNOW THE TERMS OF SERVICE

There are more and more games available online. Many of them are free to play. Several of them have Terms of Service. Some games are designed for younger kids like BuildaBearVille.com but many these days are being designed for grownups. So, just because it is a game and it’s online does not necessarily mean that it is ok for kids. So, check what games your kids are playing online.

The second thing to be careful about online is the newer phenomenon of buying virtual goods with actual money. According to some calculations people are spending over $1.5 billion on virtual goods a year. So, you may want to watch your wallet when your kid is playing a game online (or you too). This billion dollar industry is being built one $1 avatar add on at a time. People who spend money on virtual goods are spending an average of $75 per year. But this industry is growing. Growing fast.

PRO TIP: Terms of Service is the best way to avoid confrontation with your kid. If they are not 13 and they want their own MySpace page you can just show them the TOS and let them know you are not the bad guy.

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Finally – CONNECT with WIRED MOMs

We love games and playing games and have expert mom gamers who have been gaming since the first game of PONG was sold for private home use. We have gamed through the advent of the Joy Stick for the PC and the game cube, and the evolving Xbox’s and PSP’s and now of course we adore Wii especially Wii bowling and Rock Band.

We have a great team of kid reviewers who give us their honest opinion whether the ESRBs got it right or not.

You are not alone. Our team is out there to help guide you through the mire of new games and provide you with possible suggestions. You can send us your questions or follow us on Twitter ( @wiredmoms where we review games or @wiredmom where we keep you up to date on all of the news that interests us the most ).

If you find a game you think we should know about or have a concern about one of our reviews then we would love to hear from you.

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