General Conversation Starters with Your Children
- Why do you love playing video games?
- What makes them so much fun?
- Which games are your favorites and why?
- What games are you looking forward to playing?
Parent Tip: Answers to these questions will help you shape house rules that are likely to create less friction with your children.
Setting Content Rules
- First step is to familiarize yourself with the ESRB ratings, if you aren’t already.
- Next up, consider the types of games and which Rating Categories are OK for your children to play, which ones require permission or further discussion, and which are simply off limits.
- Are there specific types of content or Content Descriptors that are off limits?
- Once you’ve decided on the rules that are most appropriate, have a conversation with your children explaining the rules and why you’ve chosen them. You can also say that you may be willing to make exceptions to the rules, but that you always make the final decisions!
Parent Tip: You can activate parental controls to block games that are rated for ages older than your rules permit. Go here for step-by-step instructions. In most cases you can establish different controls for different players in the home.
Questions to ask:
- Do you play games online and, if so, with whom?
- Do you only play with friends? Do you play with strangers sometimes?
- Have you ever seen or heard inappropriate behavior from other players?
- Do you know that you can always tell me if someone is making you uncomfortable online?
- Do you know what to do and whom to contact if you’re being bullied or harassed online?
- Do you know how to report or block another player?
- Do you know to never give out personal information online? Never!
Parent Tip: Have a conversation about with whom your children can play and when your permission is required. You can activate parental controls to restrict online communication. Go here for step-by-step instructions. In most cases you can establish different controls for different players in the home. Visit this resource if your children are being bullied or harassed online.
Setting Rules on Screen-Time
Questions to ask:
- What are your favorite times of day to play?
- How much time do you play every day? Do you think it’s a reasonable amount of time?
- Do you spend more time playing games on weekends? How much more?
- Should we have different rules during the week than the weekends?
- How do we make sure that you get your homework and chores done before you start playing games?
- How can we make sure that you get to bed on time?
Parent Tip: You can activate parental controls to restrict the amount of time spent playing games. Go here for step-by-step instructions. In most cases you can establish different controls for different players in the home. Also, keeping the game device out of the bedroom, including the smartphone at night, may help you to manage screen time.
Questions to ask:
- How much money is too much to spend on games a week?
- Is it ok to buy games and in-game items by charging the cost to the account holder (typically a parent) or should you only be able to spend your own money using in-game currency that you’ve earned or a gift card?
Parent Tip: You can activate parental controls to limit the amount of money your child can spend. Go here for step-by-step instructions. In most cases you can establish different controls for different players in the home.
Keeping the Conversation Going
Bottom line, this should be an on-going, judgement-free conversation. Your needs and your child’s needs will evolve. It’s OK to adapt the rules as you go as circumstances change and your kids mature. Most importantly, keep those lines of communication open and the tone positive so your child knows that you’ll welcome any and all questions or concerns. Playing games with your child can also help encourage communication.