Gaming for 7-10 Year Olds

Parent Q&A

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  • Talk to me about Roblox

    (8 replies)

    My 9.5 year old daughter has never been interested in video games nor have we contemplated introducing them. This year, though, every single kid in her class (no exaggeration) is now obsessed with Roblox, to the point where they have nothing else to talk about in their zoom chats and she feels/is excluded even from her BFF’s.

    Now she’s saying she wants to do Roblox too. Mainly for the social connection. It is already a mighty struggle to monitor her screen time with YouTube influencers and her favorite Disney shows. I am loathe to create another battle and to have my 6 year old son get exposed to video games since screen time management is a battle with him as well.

    In the last year they’ve gone from an hour of screen time on Sat/Sun only (pre-Covid) to an hour a day at dinner prep—as much a sanity saver for us parents as for them. But again, the battles, the tears, the resentment at imposed limits, the diminished interest in other activities by my daughter all make me very wary of inserting Roblox into the picture. I am sympathetic to her social woes, however. 

    I welcome hearing how you have managed the tech balance especially with different ages and with the social aspect for a tween during COVID. Books/apps/parent-kid contract templates all welcome. It’s all new to me.

    And specifically re Roblox, what do I need to know to get the best out of it and avoid the worst? Is there a “best”? Video games have never been compelling for me or my husband and I am dreading what feels like an inevitable slide toward their intrusion into our household. I need to figure out where I stand before embarking on this new road. Help from seasoned travelers welcome!

    Roblox can be addictive as is true for all games but it is how many kids can continue to socialize during the pandemic. I understand your concerns as I too have had aversion to screen time in the past. But, I must say you are on the very restrictive side of screen time during pandemic. Many parents resort to hours of screen time per day not one hour a day. 

    I have come around and we are now a bit biased toward video games and screen time because my siblings and spouse are game artist, game designer, and a cartoon animator. 

    Our kids are slightly younger but we have a reward points system for additional game time, TV time, movie time. We distinguish video game time from TV watching time alone and watching time together with family because we believe that video game is less passive than TV watching. And watching as a family is a shared and meaningful experience. We also do not discourage social interaction with peers on zoom or video game play date and this does not count toward kids’ screen time limit. 

    We do limit each session to about an hour or less so that kids’ eyes and brains can get a break. We use various games for “educational/fitness” purpose. Prodigy for math. Ringfit and Just Dance to encourage physical activity. My older one is really into Roblox and have virtual play dates. Roblox has sparked her interest in programming and now she designs and programs her own game!  My middle one is really into Animal Crossing and has play dates with her friends on AC. I see them playing hide and seek and treasure hunt on AC and it’s sad that they are doing that online instead of in person but cute at the same time. Mindless mobile games are not welcome but high quality games that make you think or provide a shared experience aren’t so bad — Mario Odyssey, Mario kart, Mario Party, Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, etc.

    I was adamant about limiting screen time pre-pandemic even though most of our family members are in tech and digital art. Now I have embraced screen time but pay close attention to the quality. We police junk digital consumption like YouTube toy reviews, mindless addictive mobile games, binge watching mediocre shows. We have kids earn screen time points by completing their school, chores, extra academic work that they are behind — more writing practice, extra math, writing to family members, cleaning, etc. 

    Kids can cash in the points for extra 30 min of TV time, family movie night with pizza and popcorn, one weekend marathon cartoon time (2 hr max). There are high quality shows that all ages can enjoy such as Avatar the last airbender, which we  watch together and then we make it meaningful by discussing it, critiquing the show, art, plot, dialogue, writing reviews, and the younger one makes it a game outdoors with role playing and building things. 

    Not all screen time is bad. Excessive and junk screen time isn’t healthy in large amounts just like we shouldn’t eat a giant bag of Doritos everyday. 

    Roblox is a platform, and the games vary within the platform. I think you should let her play - there is a strong social component and teamwork within the various games. The ones my 10 year old girl played are a lot more peaceful and cooperative than the ones my 12 year old boy played a year or two ago. Now he has mostly outgrown Roblox and I miss the relative innocence! Next up will be Fortnite and Among Us .... a whole different level of parental worries.

    I'm really thankful for anonymous's long, thoughtful Feb. 28 response to this, because my first response after reading this question was to cry. I felt so bad about myself after reading this, because Roblox (and Minecraft and Among Us) have been my child's form of social interaction and just plain passing time throughout this pandemic, and he spends hours doing them each day. What is wrong with me that I can't manage my child (and work and take care of the house, etc.) such that he ONLY has one hour of screen time each day? I felt ashamed. But, right now, he's having a teacher-facilitated playdate (Wednesday Lunch Bunch) and is playing Minecraft with kids in his class right now, and he's laughing and exclaiming his discoveries with great excitement. So, I'm doing some deep breathing to keep the tears at bay and trying to accept that he's happy right now despite the floor that needs to be vacuumed, dishes that need to be washed, litter box that needs to be scooped, and emails to return.

    But now that I've calmed myself down, I want to point out that Roblox is play, but you don't seem to value it or other video games as a form of play. It seems strange to me to put a contract on/restrictions on playtime and how a child plays. She's not interested in other activities because she's been by herself for a year and she's lonely and, most importantly, she's not YOU! Hobbies and activities that your children engage in do not have to be compelling to you in order for you to let them participate in them. Well, I guess I moved from feeling ashamed to feeling defensive.

    We have seen a similar slippery slope with video games during the pandemic, and I'm grateful for the social connections that it has kept alive, but we drew the line at Roblox.  Our friend's kid has become totally, completely obsessed with it and we didn't love the pressure to spend actual money as well as the potential to have contact with strangers.  Yes, you can turn all these things off in the settings initially but as you see it's such a slippery slope!  I'm not a video game person either, but when I looked into it it seemed much more complex than what he's otherwise happily playing (Minecraft, Animal Crossing, etc)- and therefore likely to cause constant negotiation, etc.  Perhaps in the future our kid will be ready, but for now we gave him a clear no and we're focusing him on the other games he can play with friends during his (ever-inflating) screen time. 

    I have a few ideas that might help you. My daughter is your daughter's age and I was also resistant to screen time and Roblox. Her doctor wrote a study on girls and screen time and said that videogames are actually good for girls for both social reasons and to encourage their interest in tech. While our journey has had some bumps--and maybe you can learn from them--Roblox  has been a source of huge growth and creativity for my daughter.

    Here's my advice

    -play with her as much as possible, especially initially. My husband and I both have Roblox on our phones and when we can join her while she is playing. 

    -be prepared for some hard things to come up...there are kids that are mean just because, there can be drama, my daughter has even experienced minor sexual harassment....she's a kid who tells me everything, so I can talk her through it. There are ways to report people on Roblox and she knows how to do that now. Foul language does get hashtagged in chat, but they can find ways of working around that by using periods, special characters, and line breaks. 

    - Lessen the screen time battles and resentment by having some good parental control software installed we use ESET parental controls...I wish it has a few features that it doesn't, but it has been a real life saver. Have clear expectations for what needs to be finished before they get on screen and if you have a regular time that they need to be done or time limit, you can have it turn off automatically. When we first added these controls after a summer of free rein of screen time, it was hard there was a lot of pushback. But now, it is just an accepted part of life and she has been glad to have clear boundaries...she doesn't overdo it. I have a few apps that are set to unlimited time...only for communicating with friends, taking photos, meditating, reading, etc. Everything else uses the same pool of time and she is responsible for deciding how to allot it between youtube, roblox, among us, etc.

    -We've learned not to judge. Although I wish she'd choose to go outside more or play with her toys, I've owned the fact that it is my job to create healthy boundaries. other than that, I do my best to support her interests even if they are different from mine.

    -Roblox has "restricted mode" that blocks scary games, but it also turns off chat, which is important to my daughter's experience. My daughter was having nightmares from games in the "Horror" genre (the genre is marked on the entry screen of the game), so we have forbidden any horror games for now. She mostly plays Adopt Me, where she's had both social opportunities, has learned to economize with money, and it has become a creative outlet. She started a youtube channel that started off with her just screen recording, but evolves every time she makes a video:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChhZjO5xKQsPt-o7EM0_TTA She also now has a weekly code coach with the Berkeley Coder School in LUA  (the Roblox programming language)

    I hope this helps!

    delaney [at] screenagersmovie.com

    I highly recommend you check out Delaney Ruston’s movies (screenagers was the first) and incredibly helpful and insightful newsletter on the topic of kids and all the complex issues that come with the on-line world with which they - and we - have to cope.  
     

    Hope that you find it support there - this is hard stufff!

    Jennie

    Oh Roblox.  First, did you know once you create a Roblox account you are unable to delete it.  You can sign out, but you can never delete your account.  Did you know there are endless videos online teaching young kids how to cheat and defraud other young kids out of their money & inventory and how to hack the system and other users accounts.... oh, and these videos are being made by kids.  Did you know if you have any issues with Roblox, like online bullying or as mentioned above, other users cheating (by literally using a flaw in Roblox's operating system) you are sh-t out of luck... and the user is to blame.  Roblox is the platform... but a lot of the games on it are other companies... so Roblox is responsible for nothing... and won't take action.  Then there are the stalkers and online sexual predators (google it, it is a real problem in this game and Roblox isn't doing anything about it.  2 of my daughter's friends were inappropriately contacted with vial language online.  Oh, and did you know if you want to make any changes to your name, you literally have to buy Robux (spend your money) to do so.  And since we are on the subject of Robuxs... which is what the game entices you to buy (or even get a monthly membership) in order to have a real user experience, like getting a cute outfit, accessories, etc. - in my mind it is another form of gambling addiction.  As they say There are only two industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software.  And this is all before we get into the subject of screen time.  With all of this said... I get that "all' the kids are doing it and that it is a big way for kids, especially during the pandemic and no in-person school to stay connected.  And s a parent you have to decide whether you want to fight this battle and say no.  My advice is, if you do say yes... monitor the crap out of their gaming.  I set up the account in my name and created a password and put every safety protocol in place.  Nothing could be changed without me.... and I could monitor her friends and the types of communications.  That was then... now I banned Roblox for all of the reasons above (which we personally experienced).  I think they are one of the more unethical gaming platforms for kids out there.  Instead we have found other gaming platforms, with less risk, she and her friends could engage in.  She still wants Roblox.... but I am a hard no.  

    Roblox gets young kids hooked and while some children can “handle” it, many can not.  There are many other non-addictive-screen-based activities your child can be doing between their Zoom classes or when you’re making dinner or when you just need a break and it’s up to YOU to teach your child how to play in a healthy and developmentally appropriate way.  I like to think to myself “What did I do when I was 7 to pass the time?”  It may be necessary to team up with other parents in your child’s class to be on the same page about this so your child doesn’t feel left out and so that they have healthy socialization opportunities with friends.  I’d like to say that this will all blow over when the pandemic eases up and our children can be together again (and not needing school to be delivered on a screen), but I honestly fear there will be long-term damage to young brains from Roblox and certainly there are visible effects already for many (I personally know of 6 children under the age of 10 who have spoken of suicide this year and they all play Roblox; none of the non-Roblox-playing kids I know are struggling with their mental health.  My husband works in a psychiatric ER and he’s seeing something he never saw before the pandemic: MANY children are coming in after violent outbursts with their families over video games.)  I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about this in the near future.

  • Hi all,

    I have a 9 year old, introverted daughter. She is an avid reader and can spend hours by herself reading. She doesn't have too many friends, and I don't think she minds that much. I would like her to be more social though. She has been asked by kids her age if she plays video games and things like xbox games, Pokemon Go etc- things for which she has shown no interest. I feel it is isolating her as other kids talk about the games they play and she gets left out. But I am also conflicted about introducing electronic stimulation into her life when she has not shown any desire for these things. Any advice on this would be great.

    Thanks!

    We have a 10 y.o. Bookworm daughter starting 6th next year. She is not introverted, but watchful and also has few friends, tho the friends she has are good friends. We do not have a TV, have little time to look at streaming video, and listen to NPR in the car b/c she does not sit next to the radio(!). She also does not play computer games aside from sudoku, and is not curious about them. She has a very rich autonomous creative life and fantasy world, which pleases her, and is not phased by being "out of it"!-- we'll see how this develops as she enters the thickets of middle school social life. I feel no need to hurry her into the world of social media. However, a mid-reader kid book club would be great, as would A kid-written book review group. We live near Chavez library and new MS is near Dimond library. I'd be interested in talking to you and others about  getting a group of bookworm kids together. 

    You wrote that your daughter "doesn't have too many friends, and I don't think she minds that much.  I would like her to be more social though."  I would implore you to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. 

    As an introvert and life-long reader, who had a hopelessly extroverted mother (who could never accept that a child of hers could be constructed differently than she was), I urge you to try to see how special your daughter is.  That she's "an avid reader and can spend hours by herself reading..." and most importantly, that she doesn't mind that much that she doesn't have many friends, does not mean something is amiss.  It might mean something was amiss for you, but it does not mean that for her.

    To encourage her towards electronic games and media when she is not naturally interested might not be the best course of action.  I've raised two daughters to adulthood, who were both different in personality than I, and I know the value of accepting that they are unique and different from myself...a state of mind my own mother never attained.  My mother's continual efforts to "convert" her introverted child to something I could never be left scars that persist to this day. 

    Value your daughter for who she is; she sounds very special and intelligent.  She will most likely turn out to be someone wonderfully unique -- who you can be very proud of, instead of wishing she were more like the herds of others out there glued to their electronic devises.

    I understand your worry about your daughter not being social enough but, really, this is not a problem since you think she doesn't mind being a more solitary child. It sounds like she's just an introvert. I was the same as a child—would much rather have stayed home reading than being out doing social things—and I was perfectly happy. It's hard for the extroverts of the world to understand but this is a perfectly normal thing to do. Also, in regard to her lack of interest in electronic stuff, hallelujah!! You are one of the few lucky moms who is not having to worry about excessive screen consumption. Your daughter likes actual books!!! My suggestion would be to rejoice in that and absolutely NOT introduce electronics. When/if she becomes ready for them I'm assuming she will let you know.

    If she isn't requesting to play those games, my suggestion would be not to push it. If she wants to, you can still be in charge of screen time. My daughter has two hobbies -- she reads voraciously, and, when not reading is an avid on-line gamer. Gaming has given her a wonderful social network around the world and she also plays with her friends from the high school, but it has limited her from more physical exercise (she played soccer for 7 years but quit a couple of years ago). Unlike her older sister who always had many friends, my younger daughter isn't a social butterfly and never will be. She has made some very good friends in high school, and on-line, and she is happy with that.

    Hi,

    I would suggest that you let your introverted daughter pick her own interests. My daughter, also an introvert by nature, was more interested in art than group sports and other activities that most of her friends choose. She is now off to college as a budding artist, who is also interested in science and engineering. 

    I showed my daughter your post, and it is at her behest that I am responding. My daughter also says that by the time your kid reaches high school, she would be quite adept with all the new games out there, so not to worry!!

    I'd like to echo the comments of the other posters.  I have an introverted 22-year-old daughter who consistently "opts out" of social settings and opportunities.  I had to learn that this was not some sort of "flaw" in her personality but rather a fundamental characteristic that couldn't be changed anymore than, say, the color of her eyes.  Growing up, reading was her sanctuary, and to the day, she continues to be one of the smartest, most emotionally intelligent, and certainly most literate people in the room.  One important thing I've learned over the years:  does she experience this issue (of aloneness, lack of social life, introversion) as a problem?  If so, then it sounds like she needs support solving these challenges.  But if the issues are not experienced by her as "problems", then I would urge you to not try to mold her in your own image of what you think will make her happy.  Sounds like she has lots of gifts and dances to her own drummer, real causes of celebration in my book.  Best wishes to you.

    My daughter sounds like yours but is few years older.  Why do you want her to be more social?  My son was the same way an never watched TV.  At school the kids would talk about TV shows and he didn't have clue what they were talking about.  There were times when they though he was from another planet.  Likewise he would try to talk to them about books he read or games he liked playing (chess) and they weren't interested.  To each his own.  So what if it isolates her.  Maybe she's smart and want's to avoid the "Mean Girls" drama.  (Good for her.) 

    I would wait for her to ask for a video games.  Just leave her be for now.  Remember school is starting is less than a month.  She be seeing old friends and meeting new ones. 

    While spending time reading is great for a kid and will contribute tremendously to her academic life, I agree that helping your daughter become more social is important.  I'm kind of an introvert and think back to my childhood and wish that I had developed better social skills, interests and had been more involved in group activities.  I felt isolated and lonely much of the time and it was not healthy.  When I went off to college, finding a friend group and feeling connected was quite difficult, ended up switching schools several times because I didn't connect with peers and I was sort of depressed.  I have teenagers now and I think the happy ones are those who have developed an interest and corresponding friends through a group activity.  Maybe it could be classmates at school through sports, robotics, girl scouts, band, martial arts, or clubs and youth groups through a local organization, church, synagogue.  Feeling connected in a community is essential for mental health for kids, especially as they become teens.  I agree that I would not encourage electronic stimulation at such a young age, since by the time she is a teenager, especially as an introvert, social media may become her main way to connect with others, and sometimes in an unhealthy way.  If kids can make friends face to face in groups doing activities, I believe they will feel more connected and happy.  They might only make one best friend, but everyone needs a friend.  If participation in electronic games with friends through acquaintances in these groups is the result, then that's great, but I don't think the electronics should be the main interest.  For a 9 year old daughter, I would really work on helping her to develop social skills and encourage her to try different activities to explore her interests are so she can connect with others.  Maybe you make an agreement to try at least one thing each quarter.  Another thought is to encourage friendships by hosting get togethers at your home or outings with families with kids the same age.  I wish I could do more of this for my teens, but as an introvert, it is not in my nature to reach out, but I wish had done more of that when they were younger.  I know it can be hard, and my parents always said to me "why don't you join the "fill-in-the-blank" club", as they saw how isolated I felt.  I felt that I was not a "joiner".  That all being said, introversion has it's advantages, and acceptance that this is one's nature is important.   If ultimately your daughter wants to spend time alone, there are plenty of solo hobbies that are enriching, and reading is great!  Many parents wished they had kids who liked to spend time reading!  I spent much of my childhood and teen years sewing, embroidering, making jewelry, doing individual sports for fun and fitness, such as swimming, running, bike riding, and having after school jobs cleaning private homes.  I ended up working in a lab for my career, which was quite isolating.  As an adult I still have my hobbies, and while I enjoy them, I wish I developed skills to cultivate a larger friend group and community. Good luck.

    Not all kids play those games and even those that play have other interests.  I think the issue is not the electronic games but just that she is introverted and prefers reading solo ... it is not necessary bad as I was very similar growing up.  I would not push the electronic games on her, but rather encourage her to find her own interests (sports, art, music, etc) and then join clubs with those interests and find kids with similar interests so she has a group of friends with who she has something in common that she likes. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions

Our 7 year old son really wants a video game player

April 2013

Our 7 year old son really wants a video game player (Xbox, Wii). Many of his friends have one, and he is saving his money for one. My husband is very adamant against getting one; I, on the other hand, am open to the idea as long as we set strong LIMITS. My observation seems to be that boys, in particular, can get very addicted to the gadgets and video games. I see it with adult men too, for that matter! I see that my son has that obsessive potential too. He is allowed limited screen (TV/movies) time right now and we spend a lot of unstructured time playing and being outside, etc... I worry that if we don't get a player - maybe not now but when he is older? - and integrate it into our house with moderation that he will continue to want to go over only to his friends' houses that have game players so that he can get holed-up in their rooms wanting to do nothing else! What to do? video gaming moderation


Setting limits is important. Fold video game time into his already limited total screen time. I would also suggest putting a game system in a shared space and not in a child's room. Be proactive in selecting games for your son to play and spend time playing together with him. If you're comfortable with it, talk to other parents and come up with some shared best practices so that you don't feel so far apart in the structure you are creating for your own child.

You specifically mention console systems. I've put together a short list of E rated games that should be appropriate for children ages 7-9 and their parents to play together:


Kinect Party (X360)
Joy Ride Turbo (X360)
FEZ (X360)
New Super Mario Bros (Wii U)
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (Wii)
MLB Power Pros (Wii)
Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
NiGHTS into dreams (PS3)
Pikmin 3 (WiiU) -- released Q2 2013

Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language. (ratings and rating descriptions taken from www.esrb.org)

If you have a PC, MIT's Scratch tool is a great way to start building a foundation in interactive storytelling and programming for boys and girls at around ages 7-8: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-reviews/scratch

You might award your son with a little extra screen time for every meaningful Scratch project he creates. Think of it in terms of earning a small time allowance to encourage further self-motivated learning and exploration.

My parents bought our first family computer when I was seven. I was never allowed to have a video game console growing up. I'm now a video game developer with a three year old son of my own. Game Developer Dad


Get the video games! Video games were a highlight of my childhood. I remember playing with my cousins and my dad and uncles growing up and they are some of my fondest memories of quality time spent with them. There are a lot of benefits to video games, too many to list here, but read this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/babblecom/reasons-why-your-kids_b_2664141.html

I would recommend to find out about each game your child plays, and play with him. Not all games are the same, some are just the ''shoot 'em up'' type which I believe do give video games a bad rap. But others are more like long puzzles that take focus, perseverance, and problem solving to play (these are the type I prefer). I don't know much about the newer consoles (I grew up with the original Nintendo) so hopefully other posters will advise. TetrisGirl


We have 4 boys in our family and the oldest is 12. My observation is that enough of his friends have these gaming systems at their homes-- so he gets a lot of chances to play them. We decided *not* to get them in our home because we wanted our kids to be able to do other things-- such as enjoy reading a book, playing outside, building with blocks and legos, etc.

We thought we might get one when the oldest was in middle school... which is now and, while they would love one, we are just not going to rush out and get one.

Middle school aged boys spend so much time playing these games, it it good to let them have time to develop other skills. Plus, no matter where they are located, they tend to take over the whole house with the sound, etc. Unless both parents were on board and were willing to play the games with the kids, then I would say do not get one now.

If your son is only 7 wait a few years! Let him get into a good novel, paint a picture, draw a comic, make whistles with grass, learn guitar etc. Being bored is kind of good for kids. no video game family and happy!


I am with your husband on this one. Kids don't need video games, especially boys who are 7 years old. That is awfully young -- a time to explore the world and expand the body and mind in all different directions. Video games change the brain (not always in good ways) and kids can easily get addicted to them. Also, once you have them in the house, it is hard to remove them. (It is a case of ''how you gonna keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?'') And you are dooming yourself to years of arguing about gaming time and priorities.

We decided early on to be a TV/Video Game free zone. In this, as with all decisions (can they go places alone, go to parties without parents home, whatever), we always told our kids ''this is a benevolent dictatorship.'' We had some push back, but really not a lot. It was one of the smartest decisions we ever made in parenting. Now our kids are 21 and 17, and they still don't watch commercial TV or play video games. They are not luddites or ignorant. They love movies. Our high schooler has watched the entire West Wing series and is a Downton Abbey fan. Both boys occasionally play games on line or with friends who have consoles. But they don't ever turn on a television or a video game for entertainment, and they don't miss it. One plays competitive chess. The other reads The Economist and writes fiction. A good trade, if you ask me.

You worry that ''he will continue to want to go over only to his friends' houses that have game players so that he can get holed-up in their rooms wanting to do nothing else.'' He may want that. But you don't have to agree to that. And at least he only can do that in the houses of friends with game systems. Better that than in your house too.

If you decide to keep a console out of the house, don't let him complain and beg on this. And for goodness sake, don't let him buy it with his own money. That just invites battles about who gets to make the rules about things he buys with his own $$. You are the parents. You decide what devices and activities you want in your house. Then stick to your decisions. And certainly don't be upset by his reaction. It's not personal, and not a reflection on you or your parenting. He's just a kid wanting something you don't want him to have. (If you're hurt now, just wait until he's a teenager. :)) Your son may protest, but so what? Kids want all kinds of things that are not good for them, and our job is to say no. Like whether he eats candy instead of dinner, or holds your hand when crossing the street, or sleeps over at friends' houses. Mom of Big Guys


As the mom of three boys - teens and beyond, I feel your pain. And the timing of your question is great - just last night I attended a talk by James Steyer the founder of Common Sense Media about the influence of media on our kids - mind blowing. As to games, our boys were allowed to have a system but they had to buy it and we still have veto power over the games and set limits on the time played. I draw the line at any game where killing someone is part of the game. In my opinion, I do not want my children entertained by killing someone, virtual or not. I know that they sometimes play these games at friend's houses. I can't control everything but I can reinforce my values in our home. Honestly I would hold off on this as long as you can and do agree that some moderated exposure is better than an absolute no. But you have years of struggle ahead of you over this so putting it off would help. And check out www.commonsensemedia.org for review of movies, games, etc. Good luck! Too much media


I was also against getting a game system for my son, for all the usual reasons. He did play at his friends' houses, but I figured that was out of my hands, and it didn't bother me. In elementary school we told him we wouldn't buy him one, but that if he wanted to buy his own, he could buy it once he was in middle school. Sure enough, he saved his money and as soon as he was in sixth grade he bought one, and the battles started, on screen and in the house. He's a somewhat obsessive kid, and it was hard for him to abide by the limits we set as to amount of time and types of games he was allowed to play. It took a lot of parental policing and energy to hold the limits, and the reality is over time his persistence was succesful in getting the limits pushed out ALOT. so just keep in mind that the negative impacts aren't just the exposure to violence, and that it's subsituting for more active, creative, physical play, it's also that it will almost certianly create additional tension in your household. It's hard to hold the line against such a compelling force, and the reality is that it is a huge part of boy culture, and many of his friends were allowed to play with few limits. So I don't think it's something that can be totally avoided, but my advice is to keep it out of your house as long as you can, and at least make him pay for it himself and/or earn the right some other way. not a video game fan


I would hold off longer. I say this as the mother of 5 and 8 year old boys who are allowed to play their current favorite game (Skylanders) on the Wii. We seriously limit their video time (30 minutes after dinner and all chores and homework are done.) Their father is more in favor of videogames and while he doesn't play any on his own, he seems to enjoy the kids' interest.

Even with their access limited, I find myself quite dismayed by how much the games colonize their imaginations. On the playground, they want every game to have the language and ideas of the video game (for instance, when playing handball I hear ''I did 20 damage to you!'') If my older son is drawing, he's drawing something related to the video game. If my younger son is playing with toy animals, they're acting out scenes from the video game. My older son is also starting to want to reject playdates with kids who don't do video games in favor of playdates with kids who do, so they can talk about it more. We have recently had to make a rule that each kid can only tell me three things per day about the video game, because otherwise my entire day would be an unending series of questions like ''Mama, what's your favorite Skylander that isn't a tech type?'' I don't see this kind of addictive quality with television.

If I were to do it again, I would hold firm and deny videogames for a few more years, especially until my five year old was older. Sick of Skylanders


We went through the exact same thing with my son. There actually is some amount of social status associated with being good at those games, but we did not let him buy a console until he was in 9th grade. Until then, he went to his friends' houses to play. Since buying the evil thing, he has reduced his outdoor play and reading, but has also had sleepovers with friends at our house to host some gaming. My main concern was that he would become a hermit and isolate himself from actual people, but that did not happen.

I was also worried about the addictive potential so when he first got it, he was only allowed to play it on weekends, and even then only for limited amounts of time, and only if all his homework was done. Now we let him self-regulate more, but it's easy to lose track of time when engrossed in gaming, so I periodically ask him if he notices how long he's been playing, and that is usually enough to get him to quit. He plays varsity sports and keeps his grades up, so for him it is a way to unwind, and my fears of addiction were unfounded as well.

So yes, he enjoys them, but they are just one of the things in his recreational repertoire. --Limits are possible


We're living in a small apartment now, and I didn't want our one TV hooked to a video console, so I decided to put off an XBox purchase for a while, despite constant clamoring. My son didn't want to have his friends over (he was at a new school), because he was embarrassed that there was nothing to do. Finally, 9 months later he had his first friend over, and surprise surprise, they had a blast: playing with nerd guns, walking to the pet store to get a mouse for the snake (gross), busing to Subway for a sandwich, riding bikes in the neighborhood and finding cool parking lot ramps to fly off of.... Basically, once they realized there was no XBox, they still found a way to have fun, and now we have kids over at least once a week. My son is about to turn thirteen, and we're moving into a bigger space soon, so I may need to revisit the whole XBox thing. I'm glad I waited, and it's been a good lesson to my son that he doesn't need to have everything everyone else has, AND he'll still have friends. Maybe next year


Go ahead and get him one. I don't think it's such a big deal. Just stay in the picture - play with him! I have three boys, the youngest 12. I have really enjoyed playing computer games with them over the years. Talking about the games and playing them with my boys has given us some fun time together. Now is a really good time to establish the ground work on this - setting limits and sticking to them will come in VERY handy later. Enjoy the few years you have to do this, because by middle school he will prefer playing with his friends, not his parents!


Games for 9 year old - Minecraft OK?

Oct 2012

My 9 year old son wants to play games on the computer. So far, we have limited him to math games that his school recommended and Club Penguin. We limit screen time, don't have a Wii or iPad and don't watch TV (but occasionally rent movies). The current rage is Minecraft. It seems benign to me (except for the possibility for unmoderated text messages), but it reminds my husband of first-person shooter games and worries that it is a gateway to those types of games. Is he imposing his experience? Can you recommend any age-appropriate games that build creativity and expose kids to computers, but aren't violent/commercial/unmoderated? Low-tech mama


Minecraft could be a 'gateway' game as your husband calls it (not sure), but it's pretty benign as games like that go. There is more building/exploring/creating than violence, and the violence is pretty tame (e.g., you hit a skeleton or zombie a few times and it disappears). My husband, son (8) and I all play it and this game can be so many things. If you are worried about unmoderated chat, either find family-friendly multiplayer servers for him to play on (you can search for these, esp. on sites like punchwood.com whichis family- friendly), or don't let him play multiplayer. There is so much on Minecraft that he can do on his own in single-player. My son usually plays in 'creative' mode where you just build/create and there's no fighting. He can download fun maps and puzzles to do in Minecraft. You can also help him create a small server where just he and his friends can play together. Reconsider Minecraft


Hi, My nine year old son plays (on our PC) mine craft, spore, Lego star wars, wizard 101.

All of these games have fighting! Sorry. But they also have ''creative'' aspects - where he is creating worlds, creatures, characters. That is wonderful. To me, it's a cool step along the artistic path, similar to drawing, Lego building, clay, etc.

Spore is my favorite for creativity. You make these intricate life forms. We just got mine craft and he loves building things.

I used to worry about the violence. Now I don't. He's read and seen Harry potter, star wars, etc etc. He's killed aliens, ninjas, darth vader, etc. in video games. Yet he's quite clear that he doesn't want to join the army and be in a real war when he's an adult. Nor does he hit his friends to resolve conflicts (although they do in play).

Hope you can find the right balance for your family! Nonviolent mama too


Dear Low-Tech Mama,

I'm a game developer with a three year old son, and there certainly is a lot to think about in terms of games appropriate for your child. I believe that parents need to determine guidelines they feel are appropriate for their own children. You've taken a good first step by caring enough to post and research what's out there.

I would recommend the Common Sense Media website as a good place to start. They cover media issues for parents across games, websites, apps, film, television, and even books. They also have helpful reviews that break down products in terms of their positive impact: www.commonsensemedia.org

In addition, games have a rating system similar to what you see in film: http://www.esrb.org

I haven't played Minecraft myself, so I can't comment on it. I can tell you that the XBox 360 Edition of the game is rated Everyone 10+ for its fantasy violence (as someone else here mentioned). While the interface and some gameplay moments share similarities with adult-rated first-person shooter games, I know several parents of nine year olds who are fine with their kids playing Minecraft. You can get an impression of what the gameplay experience is like from the game's trailer video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmB9b5njVbA

Computer games can be used as a gateway to learning all kinds of useful real-world skills. They can foster creative expression through design, art, and music. There are free tools like Gamesalad (http://gamesalad.com/) out there that are accessible to a wide age group. Your son can use these tools to tell his own stories and create games that he can share with others.

I encourage moderation in terms of screen time. Again, you are the best one to determine what moderation means to you and your child. I love hearing from parents who play computer and video games with their children. I hope you are able to game together as a family. All the best to you, and thank you for putting this out there! GM


Best Game System for mellow 8 y.o. boy

November 2008

Hi, I'm trying to figure out what the best game system is for my son's b-day and am so baffled! We're considering Xbox or Playstation but don't know enough and frankly don't trust the guys in the shops to know what's appropriate for his age. He's 100% non-violent, into puzzles, driving and motorcycle race games, strategy and logic games. I could see him playing one of the Lego games or Japanese cute character community-type games. Wii is out because he's got some physical special needs, so none of that throw your arm around stuff. Any good advice? Clearly Clueless Mama


I would get a Nintendo Wii. There are great games for kids of his age (new ones from EA/Hasbro include Hasbro Family Game Night with games like Boggle and other, Monopoly, Nerf, etc.) that are non violent. It skews to much younger kids and has lots of games the whole family can play. There is even a great puzzle game called Boom Blox (created by Steven Spielberg) that would be perfect for him. Just my 2 cents - go with the Wii! Anon


I would Wii & DS; both have TONS of puzzles, racing, etc. Wii utlizes more body movement, but DS is portable (for long car trips or waiting room).

My kids (6.75 & 9.5) love all the Mario Bros. racing games (Mario Kart, Mario Party, etc. -- these do have some cartoonish violence w/car crashes), & Need for Speed (traditional racing game). WarioWare Smooth Moves is hilarious (I bought it used for myself, but my kids and godkids use it more than I do). Wii Sports for some movement (though it does have boxing). World Of Goo where you have to build bridges (physics-based game).Boom-Blox (where you knock towers down). Cranium Kabookii. Wii Play. Even a Dance Dance Revolution type game w/mat for Wii. Hope this gives you lots of ideas! Stephanie


In your post, you ask about the Xbox and Playstation. Is there a reason you're not considering a Wii by Nintendo? It is the most family-oriented of the platforms, plus Nintendo has its own licensed games that are pretty kid friendly, such as the Mario Kart driving series and so on. The Wii offers way more puzzle and fun role-playing games (e.g., Wario Ware, Animal Crossing). Also, you could get Wii Fit for workouts and fitness games for the whole family. We love ours. Guitar Hero is also available for the Wii now, but not sure about Rock Band. Nintendo has just released or is soon to release a music composition game for the Wii. I just feel Nintendo does the best job with all ages...all the way to adult.

Having said that, we also have an Xbox 360. My son loves it (he is 13), but it has a bunch more violent games and fewer of the brain-activity games. From my understanding the Sony Playstation is marketed to older teens and young adults, and the titles reflect that. I believe the Playstation to be the most expensive of all the platforms, with Xbox being in the middle, and Wii being the least expensive. Nintendo Fan


Have you looked at the Wii in person? I wouldn't necessarily eliminate it due to your son's physical limitations. Many of the games are NOT of the ''throw your arm around'' type. You can also play GameCube games on it (available used at a good price) using either the Wii remote or the old GameCube controllers (buttons and a little joy stick). My son has a Wii, and I can assure you that he still spends most of his Video Game Time sitting on his bum with his fingers and thumbs running the game. I think Nintendo (maker of the Wii) is really the game designer with the most games of the non-shoot-em-up type. Most game stores (including Target and GameStop) have a Wii set up to demo games, so you can have your son try it. If the particular game being shown requires movements that aren't appropriate for your son, explain your situation and ask to try a few other games. If you want to check it out more, contact me and you can look at ours (and our games)! There are games of all the types you described - racing, puzzles, cute Japanese community games, etc. As he gets older, he may want different games, but my son, now 15, still plays mostly non-violent (or minimally/comically violent) games. He has no interest in the other game systems because he feels they don't offer enough of the kinds of games he likes. I don't know the specifics of your son's situation, but if it's mainly his arms that are limited, there are also games (with the Wii Fit system) that use more whole-body movements (balancing, running in place, doing a jump-type movement, yoga postures, etc.). Good luck! rk


I already posted my opinion that the Wii might still work for your son, despite his physical issues. After talking to my son, I wanted to supply a little more detail. He assures me that many of the Wii games have the option of playing with either with arm/wrist movements (often just wrist flicks, not arm swinging), or using the ''nunchuck,'' which is a joystick remote (purchased separately) that attaches to the regular remote. They can even be played with the old Game Cube controllers, which include a joystick. So I stand by my advice to consider the Wii after all. rk


Online interactive games for grade school kids

November 2006

I am the mother of 2 daughters, ages 7 and 9. I consider my husband and I to be pretty conservative when it comes to what my children watch on television (rarely watch) and movies. I cannot help but feel a little in over my head when it comes to these online games that many of their classmates are playing, so I insist on sitting with them when they ask to play. Truthfully, with a younger toddler in the house, I rarely have the time, but I try to allow them some time on the computer despite my feelings as I realize that this generation is inundated with computers in so many ways. This evening, my older daughter asked if she could play something called ''Penguin Club'' or something similar. While the players never put in their names or any identifying info., once they got into this ''generically'' interactive site, I was floored by the savvy of so many of these kids (or posing to be?) on the site. Thinking I was being a bit overprotective sitting in on this ''kids'' site, it only took a moment for me to see that one cute,tiny penguin was following my daughter's penguin around, asking her to ''adopt'' him/her. My daughter said, ''Oh, how cute!'' and instantly typed in ''Sure!'' The penguin instantly called her ''Mommy'', then asked her to meet him/her in a pizza place on the site. She went, and suddenly, then penguin began referring to her as ''Daddy''. As my daughter typed, ''I'm not your daddy, I'm your mommy'', I pointed out to her that even though she might be being careful not to tell any ''personal'' info., she had just told that penguin that she was a girl. She didn't get it, but as we spoke, she understood.

My question ... are there any sites that anyone can recommend that appear to the kids to be ''interactive'', but are not truly so? While I understand the importance of being with my children when they are online and our computer is in our kitchen where I usuall am, it seems, I also have a toddler. Logistically, I cannot always be there every second with them, but am very watchful overall. I do not want to make my daughters so fearful of using computers that they do not want to learn the positive aspects of the internet. Mama Penguin


My 7 y/o daughter also tried playing the Penguin Club on the ''advice'' of her 4th grade reading buddy. We sat with her while she explored the site which was benign. However, at a certain point the website indicated that you were required to ''join'' the club by choosing a monthly payment level ($5-15) and providing a credit card #. At that point I said ''no way'' and it gave us a good opportunity to discuss the consumer aspects of the internet. Now we stick to the PBS, Nick and Discovery Kids sites.
everything in moderation


Fun non-violent games for 7.5-year-old

March 2006

My 7.5 year old son has started to have computer time at home. He's not had any until this year and only gets an hour a week. So far this time has been spent playing Age of the Empires which was introduced by my partner. Both father and son enjoy this game, but the shooting at other empires makes me uncomfortable even though there's more to the game. Everyone has agreed to let me introduce some other games so long as they are engaging. Can some folks please recommend some non violent, interesting, fun, engaging computer games? I checked the web site and there are just a few old entries on computer game systems. Thanks. minimal media mama


Try the Backyard sports series - they have Backyard baseball, hockey, soccer, football, all with young cartoon kids playing, sometimes famous athletes as cartoon kids, all very enjoyable, even for adults. There are also some Sim City games that are good for younger kids (do they still make Sim Town, which was SimCity for little kids - my kids loved those). also hated violent games


Dear Minimal Media Mom, I have the greatest resource for you, and for all BPN members: www.commonsensemedia.org

Common Sense Media is the leading non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to improving the media lives of children and families. As you know, media and entertainment profoundly impacts the social, emotional, and physical development of our children. Common Sense provides trustworthy information and tools so families can have a choice and voice about the media they consume. Their website is a one-stop resource for expert ratings, reviews, and recommended lists on thousands of TV shows, video games, movies, websites, music and books. All of the content is based on child development criteria. In the reviews you'll find straightforward, factual information, and then you can decide for YOUR family, and YOUR child what is right for you. Oftentimes the review has questions about the content of a show, movie etc., so you can dialogue with your kids about what they see, view, hear and play. One of their motto's is ''we can't cover their eyes but we can teach them to see''. I really like that because no matter what the rules might be in our own house, the reality is kids are bombarded by media constantly--there is no escaping it--so let's help develop our kids to be critical thinkers of the media and raise them to be ''media savvy''!

They also provide an interactive forum where adults and kids can offer their own views and reviews. In addition, you can sign up to receive their weekly on-line newsletter, which comes every Friday with the most recent media releases as well as news and research updates. The site also has parenting tips and tools about managing a healthy media diet, media violence and kids, selling to kids, and more-- it's terrific.

As you can tell, I'm a total fan of Common Sense, and as a parent with 2 young children I've found their website and newsletter a wealth of information and a terrific resource. Hope this is useful. Take care, Dana


Have you considered logging on to Neopets (www.neopets.com)? There's an enormous variety of activities, and violence needn't be an elements. It's free, and highly interactive. Kathleen


I would suggest checking out Gamehouse games (www.gamehouse.com). They have tons of different types of games that you can download for a free trial (usually 60 minutes of playing). If you decide you like a game, you can buy it online (the games are $19.98 but you can usually get 20% off if you buy more than one at a time), get a license code right away and keep playing. Some of our favorites are Luxor, Ricochet, Varmintz, and Tumblebugs. For more ''educational'' type games, we like Starflyers, ClueFinders, and Zoombinis, all from The Learning Company. They have a series of puzzles and activities to do, no violence, no time pressure, just fun. Lucy


Both of my kids (11 and 14) and I play World of Warcraft (''WoW'') and have been doing so since it first hit the public market. WoW can be a very addictive game, but you can impose automatic limits on the amount of time your children spend playing it: Blizzard Entertainment has thoughtfully provided a ''Parental Control'' feature by which you can set the weekly hours on which your child can play, controlled by your own password. I supppose you can call WoW ''violent,'' but it is set in a cartoonish fantasy- world that no rational child will mistake for reality. Television and movies are far more realistic and disturbing. (Not only that, movies and television are non- engaging and stupefying, whereas WoW requires constant personal and online social interaction.) My kids have both been playing computer games from a very young age (starting at 2-3 years old) and they are outgoing, diverse, intelligent, well-rounded and doing well in school. Computer games have not caused them any serious problems, and WoW has been no exception. Note that according to WoW's rules, all players must be at least 13 years old, although there are many exceptions and Blizzard Entertainment cannot really tell the actual ages of players. Just be sure to set limits and stick to them. (Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.) ed