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Video Games: Teens

Teens playing video games

Video games are entertainment, yet they also send strong messages about what society values and who has control. As a parent, your challenge is to dig deeper than the hype about video-game violence. Try to understand your teenager's relationship to video games, recognizing it may be complex.

As a first step, get to know the game titles that populate your teen's world, whether they are embedded in a social networking site, on a game console or delivered via a mobile app. It doesn't matter if you lack technological know-how or can't quite match your teen's game-playing talents. Simply having a conversation is a good way to begin.

7 Ways to Make the Most of Digital Games

  1. Get to know the games your teen plays.
    Games attract players for many reasons. You won't know what draws your teen in unless you ask. Is it the chance to beat others? The mystique of getting lost in a fantasy world? The chance to solve problems? Or might it be gaining superpowers, connecting with others, or simply playing a game that's popular with friends? Check out Common Sense Media for parent reviews and the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rates all computer and video computer games, and offers rating summaries.
  2. Beware of games with stereotypes and negative images of women.
    Many games direct violence at female characters or lack racial diversity. They may portray whites as heroes and African-Americans or Latinos as athletes or victims of violence. Talk about the messages these games send, and discourage your teen from playing them. It's good for your teen to hear you speak out against images and ideas you find objectionable.
  3. Be vigilant for violence.
    Avoid games that portray killing as justified or free of penalties. Encourage your teen to steer clear of "first-person shooter" games, where the player takes on the identity of a violent character.
  4. Teach your teen to spot product placement.
    Marketers use video games to build brand exposure and to link their products with what is cool. Talk to your teen about why video characters would use or wear name-brand merchandise. Are there financial reasons why a product would appear in action and sports games?
  5. Emphasize the social aspects of game play.
    Encourage your teen to swap game-playing hints with other players online or with friends. This can help prevent digital games from becoming a solo retreat.
  6. Talk to your teen about players she may meet online.
    If your teen competes with peers online or via mobile networks — or chats with them on screen during gameplay — discuss the importance of privacy. Remind her not to reveal any personal information, especially to people she has never met. Encourage your teen to question what others say online.
  7. Encourage your teen to explore the creative process that produces video games.
    Games are not divorced from your teenager's influence. They are creative works upon which your teen can improve. The GameCareer Guide, for example, offers information for students and educators in the game industry.
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