Gaming for Teens & Preteens

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi,

    Our 12 year old son wants to set up an account to Stream using Twitch to gain income.  We are not sure how safe this is considering that they require putting in his Social Security Number (I am assuming for the purpose of Taxes if he makes money).  Does anyone have experience in working with this website and if they have found any concerns in doing this?  Any input would be appreciated as we are not familiar with all of this.  Thank you.


    There is absolutely no way I would let my kid have a Twitch account. There is much less moderation than on many other streaming platforms, which results in non-stop creepy comments in the chat section. Twitch requires you to be 13 to have an account (although it's simple enough to lie about your age and get an account anyway if a kid is inclined to do that) and everyone that age is bombarded with requests for contact of various kinds, both financial and sexual, from predators. I'm not a hypervigilent Luddite mom exaggerating the situation. I have seen with my own eyes how kids with accounts get approached by other "kids" who turn out to be predatory creepers within an hour of setting up an account.

    Depends on how mature and online savvy your son is. Kids are can make a lot of money on sites like Twitch.  A lot of money.  Online gamming is where it is at,  With that said, Twitch can be risky for younger kids, proper understanding of the platform and some ground rules can allow teens to enjoy live streams from an array of topics. That being said, it’s important for parents to understand that Twitch does encourage users to connect with strangers and that everything on site will not be kid-appropriate.  Like all livestreaming platforms, Twitch can be risky for kids and teens. Although Twitch has moderators and strict rules around sexually suggestive or explicit content, it doesn't offer filters or age gates for specific categories and games, which include mature, violent titles like Grand Theft Auto V and Crysis 3…

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Call of Duty game for 12 year old?

April 2013

Hi, My 12 year old has bought the ''call of duty game'' on XBOX with his savings knowing how much I was against this violent game. As I found out about it, I took away the Xbox. He keeps asking about the game and XBOX to the point that is driving me crazy. He crys and begs me to give it back to him constantly. Most of his friends have this game, and the parents are fine with it. I like to know if anyone has been through this with his or her child. How can I get his mind out of this game? Is it true that they become more aggressive and violent when they play this game? I have an 8 year old too and don't want him to watch his brother playing a game of killing people on TV. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, Anon

Hi, Sorry, I think this is going to be a long response but I'm so happy to write as a mom with much video / kid experience. My son wanted COD last year, (12 yo), and my husband & I relented. There are two things you bring up in your letter; the first is the crying & begging for the game system back and the second, will your child become violent?

First - don't reward the whining. One point my husband & I stress is that if our son wants to play any video games or even have a game system, it's under our jurisdiction. We decide & we don't give in to whining. Really important --he's got to act responsibly before even playing a game where he'll be letting loose.

We often talk with him about the games -- everything from ''Little Big Planet'' to ''COD, (no GTA or anything like that allowed here); what is it he likes about the game? What's creepy? And we're nearby to hear him or his friends playing to say ''that doesn't sound appropriate''. We'll let our son know during the course of a conversation --if it seems like he's influenced by something in the game -- same thing -- ''that's not appropriate, is it?, why not?''

We don't leave him completely isolated and use the game as a babysitter. It is a game he plays with friends and believe it or not - my husband plays with him, too. There is a zombie mode where players go after zombies. They do this together pretty regularly. Which is to say, we've made our son's gaming part of our acceptance of him. How could he ''become violent'' if we are including him? We check him when he sounds like he's getting a little snarky or insensitive, so there is a time and place for the boy anger, but we don't let it seep into every aspect of our day because of the gaming.

Our son was never violent to begin with, just very curious and a lot of his friends play this and other games. They happen to not be violent either. It's our house, so our rules. We have to be okay with the game first, and that means looking into it, via the gaming store or on-line reviews. There are games his friend's parents are ok with and we aren't but that doesn't make any difference to us and at this point our son knows that.

Be consistent, don't give in to bad behavior. If something arises in his behavior because he's started playing COD, you have the right to sat ''we're taking this away for --- (x days) until you understand that this behavior isn't acceptable to us.

Hope that helps a little! anon

Hold your ground! My 13 yr old also wants it as well as others with a Mature rating. He tries to reason with me, saying he understands the difference between real and fake violence, that he plays the games at friends' homes. I tell him I still don't like it and being a participant as opposed to a passive viewer of a violent movie is different and I feel it will desensitize him to violent images. He disagrees. So I told him to research articles that defend/justify violent games, find studies and proof that it's okay. When he can present an argument with credible sources, I'll listen. Until then, no violent games in my house. Another Mom

I have three boys and also find these games offensive and frankly, kind of boring. However, video gaming is a huge part of young male culture and there is no way to shut it out.

I think putting up a complete roadblock to your son playing these games by taking his Xbox is only going to lead him to play them somewhere else. I also think if he saved his money to buy the game, you taking it away is going to create a lot of frustration and resentment.

A few things I recommend, create a meaningful dialogue about the games. Sit with him and talk about the game while he's playing it. What is his strategy, why does he find it challenging, how does the violent aspects make him feel. Also, purchase games that you approve of, I recommend Minecraft, if he doesn't already have it. Building worlds with cubes, builds on mathematical strategies, really challenging and fascinating. Finally, limit time playing games, no exceptions.

Hope this helps. East Bay Mom

Good for you! He'll survive without that game -- isn't it PG13, anyway? Just hold on to it until he's 13 or 14. Then give it back to him with tight restrictions -- ie. he can only use it for an hour at a time, and when his younger sib is out of the house at some activity.

Here's common sense media's review of the game.

These kind of games were developed to train soldiers to kill people, and we don't need to provide them to our children. You are the parent and get to say what happens in your house.

You might want to try to get him involved in some more activities -- busy kids are less likely to get obsessed with games, and he'll meet friends who want to do a sport or maker club or whatever. anon

My son is 16 and started playing games like Call of Duty towards the end of middle school. I also dislike the games and am now dealing with a full blown video game addiction. I highly recommend the website There is a parent handbook that is definitely worth getting. He tells you which games are most addictive and how to set limits with them, etc. There is a lot of very helpful info in the handbook and on the site. The games are not going away and I think the trick is setting appropriate limits and boundaries with gaming. The handbook helps you determine appropriate gaming times for different age groups. It has also helped me to understand the addictive nature of gaming. You are wise to be questioning this now because from experience, the grasp these games have on kids is very powerful. You have to educate yourself about them and be one step ahead of your son. Another mom concerned about gaming

Wow, I just really think we ALL have to stand up against this crazy perversion of our boys! These games are proven (I've read the studies) to make children violent, second ONLY after being in a gang, for pete's sakes! They also make our kids check out, loose interest in all healthy pursuits, loose their good grades, and they drive us crazy! If your son says 'all the other boys are allowed to do this', I doubt it is true. My son, for one, is not allowed. I really think we all need to rise up and be strong here! Stop the whining, boys! Do all your homework, play your instrument, do chores, volunteer, be kind, and then, maybe, you get to play a short time on a NON violent game! Tuff because Iove him

Hello Mom, My now 19 y/o did the same thing. Absolutely no violent games by my rules, he went on and got the x-box and a whole collection of violent games from his wealthy friend who was upgrading to who knows what more blood, better guns game system. He bought it without asking, he knew the answer, and with his own money. I protested but he said, mom, this is the way we guys bond! we sit there and we swear and laugh and beat each other on screen! we would not know what to do just sitting around in the living room... ! and he was right ! whole bunch of kids came and took turns killing each other and snacks and drinks were going around and there was laughter and swearing... still today when he returns from college on breaks. Boys love it, there is no way around it. My daughter would not go near the living room, she is 2 years younger. So if I had to give you advice I would say give back the x-box and set strict rules about when he can play: after all homework is done, no more than 1 hour, etc. and take it away the minute grades drop or any other misdemeanor happens. It's too bad they start younger and younger on these games. My son was 14 then. Much luck to you. I still don't like the games... but I am a girl... Reluctant video mom

Really? Your 12 year old just went out and bought an M-rated game on his own with his own money?

Listen, the video game ratings use different letters, but that's the equivalent of an R movie. If there's really a store out there that sold a 12yo the equivalent of an R-rated movie, you should call and complain to the manager. That's the whole point of a rating system: to keep kids from buying games that were made for adults. I'm going to guess though that an adult was with him who wasn't paying attention to what was being purchased or it was bought online.

So the question here is, if the other parents let their kids watch R-rated movies, does that mean your kid should get to as well? Of course it doesn't. You decide what's appropriate, and if he's not mature enough for a specific R-rated movie (or M-rated game) then don't let him have it. Do you believe that watching R-rated movies makes people violent? That's your answer on the game too. Personally, I do not believe that M-rated games, when played by the people they were intended for (adults and mature teens!) have any effect on the player.

And since you're (understandably!)opposed to your 12yo having access to games rated for adults, might want to have a talk with him and/or his friends' parents about it. Perhaps they don't understand how a rating system works, or perhaps they feel their child is mature enough for it. And watch his purchases. just because it's a video game, doesn't mean it was made for kids

I know this may sound odd, but you can also try to meet your son half-way, so to speak, by bonding with him and learning what he thinks about video games in a non-confrontational manner.

''Wreck-It Ralph'' is a funny 2012 animated Disney kid's movie about the secret lives of video game characters after the arcade closes. It's similar to ''Toy Story'' in the sense that the toys have their own lives and adventures when people are not around.

It's got plenty of references to older arcade games when parents were kids, like Mario Brothers and Q-bert. It's also got a hilarious take-off on a Metroid/Call of Duty:Black Ops mash-up called ''Hero's Duty''.

Watch it with him (it's fun and *not* scary). Talk to him about it. Get his feedback, views, opinions and, yes, even his preferences about which characters he prefers in his video games and why. Let him talk about it. You may be surprised what he's thought about.

This is a good first step to communicating with him about some of the things he feels are important and interesting in his life. And it would give you the opportunity to learn a bit about the world of video games. It may even give both of you some common ground for negotiating playing video games, and when and what is acceptable. Good Luck

Your son might enjoy reading ''For the Win'' by Cory Doctorow (author of ''Little Brother''.) It's kind of a post-apocalyptic video game novel. This book had a big impact on my video game loving middle schooler not wanting to get too hooked in to games. And if not, at least he will have done some reading. Rachel

Xbox games for 12 year old, no gore?

Jan 2012

For reasons not really relevant, our family now has an xbox gaming system. However, we're at an impasse over games. I have two sons, 7 and 12. It seems that the most popular games, the ones all of my older son's friends play (halo, call of duty, assassin's creed) involve assault weapons and lots of gore - which i just don't want in our house. He insists that there's 'nothing else worth playing' and gets bummed out when he has a friend over because he doesn't have any of those games to share. Are there games that your preteens/early teens like to play - strategy, sports, other types? - that are challenging and fun, but don't involve all the intensely dark and bloody graphics? can't stomach it

We have an Xbox game called Forza Motorsport. It is a driving/racing game. My son (17 yo) and his friends love it. I think if you went on a site like Amazon and searched on games, you would probably be able to narrow the search by content.

There is an Xbox version of the computer game Minecraft -- which all of the 12 year olds I know, including my own son, are obsessed with lately. It's a creative game, you can do a lot of different things with it, and there are monsters to fight but no realistic violence or gore. (It's actually appropriate and a lot of fun for a very wide age range; both of your kids will probably love it.) Holly

Portal! Really cool game. I play it with my 12 year old. Check Common Sense Media also - they have great recommendations and reviews.

Gaming system: what kind for middle schoolers?

Aug 2012

Okay, major ignoramous here! My son started a new middle school last year, and all his friends have gaming systems (Xbox seems to be the most popular). I have not been a supporter of video games, preferring reading, imaginary play and bike riding for my son. However, these are not the interests of his new school friends, and after a year he still doesn't want to invite kids over because ''there's nothing to do.'' I have spent some time soul-searching and have decided to surprise him with a gaming system for his birthday (with some help from extended family). HOWEVER, I don't know what to get! I read some reviews of Xbox, and all the games seem to be very violent. Then there's Nintendo, Wii and Playstation! He did buy his own iPad and plays some video games once in a while (mostly he watches NetFlix during his screen time), so the point is to get something that allows people to play, in-person, together. We have a small flat screen TV and an older old-style TV, wifi, but no cable TV service. What system do your kids like? What kind of set up do I need (e.g., flat-screen TV, controllers, extra memory...)? What games are fun and would not be too offensive to a pacifist and feminist mom? Where's the best place to shop for new and used stuff? Any online resources for newbies? Any other tips? Thanks! Want the boys to come over

My son is making a good argument for playstation 3 because it will upgrade our existing set up. His point is that it will turn our 1990s fat screen into a youtube, netflix, gaming freindly fun center. Birthdays are coming!

XBox is the one to get. I don't like it, but that is the one all the kids play, and if you goal is to have your son included in what other boys his age are doing, that is the one. Unfortunately, what this means (or it does at least at our house), is that all the socializing takes place over the headset with his friends playing the game at the same time at their houses, and not side-by-side on the couch. My son likes the games you would probably consider too violent, like Call of Duty, so I don't have a lot of suggestions there, although I am sure there are many places you can find ratings and reviews. One thing that has saved us that many parents may not be aware of is that there is a ''family timer'' built into the XBox that allows you to use a password and set limits for the amount of time allowed to play each day or each week. Good luck! reluctant XBox mom

I know it seems weird that so many games are violent (and I wish they weren't), but studies don't show any significant problems. Video games increase hand-eye coordination and teach strategy and cooperation. The key is balance between video games and other activities.

Xbox 360 sounds like what you want for a boy to fit in with his friends. If you're not dead-set on surprising him, you might ask if he;s okay with a Wii. Wiis have less ''cool'' video games, but have more games that you might like. You don't need a new TV. Bigger TVs are nice, but this is already a big investment! You will need to buy controllers; a new Xbox 360 usually only comes with one and used Xbox 360s may come with none. (Though your boy's friends could bring their controllers over - that's what my friends and I do.) You'll need more than 4GB of memory. He will probably end up using 20-40GB.

Many of the multiplayer games teenagers want to play are violent, though not all involve shooting guns at humans. For instance, you fight zombies in Resident Evil 5 & 6 and Left 4 Dead 1 & 2.

Fable 2 & 3 are both fantasy action RPGs. The LEGO games (Batman, Harry Potter, Star Wars) are fun. There is fighting, but as everything in the games are made of LEGOs, they burst apart into pieces when you ''kill'' them. Portal 2 has physics-based puzzles.

Rhythm/music games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band may be good choices, but are rather expensive due to the special equipment they come with. Many sports and racing games are multiplayer and generally should not be violent. Lastly, there are arcade games downloadable from the Xbox Live store, such as Castle Crashers or Dungeon Defenders.

If I had to recommend one game that you would be happy for him to play (and maybe even play with him) and that is also ''cool,'' it would be Portal 2. Make sure to pick up the first Portal, too.

A warning: get games with local multiplayer so that your boy and his friends can sit on the couch together to play. Many multiplayer games, especially competitive ones, only support online multiplayer and that's not what you want.

Unfortunately, there aren't many 4-player local multiplayer games, especially if you're avoiding games that involve shooting people. Most of the ones I mentioned above are only for two people.

As for where to shop, I'd recommend staying away from GameStop if you plan on buying things used. Better to buy new to support the developers (Amazon sometimes has good prices) or buy from a person on eBay, etc.

Good luck! You're going to have one happy boy on your hands. Jessica

You would think this would be an easy question but it is not and you are in no way an ignaramous for not knowing the ins and outs of the complicated gaming world. These games are very sophisticated on so many levels, including the messages they convey. As a mother of three boys, I find the screen time/gaming issue to be huge. My oldest, who is 14, while excelling in school, would prefer to spend all his time on his xbox.

I imagine that your son has played video games at his friend's houses, right? So he probably already has some ideas about games he likes. You are correct, a majority of the Xbox games are first-person shooter games or first person combat games. You should see the eye-rolling when I ask my oldest about his impressions of the games in discussions about incidents like the shootings in Aurora, CO. I personally think that individuals who are already struggling socially, can become emboldened by playing games like Black Ops day after day. But what I get is ''Mommmmm,I am not going to go out and shoot anybody!!!'' Again, so many issues here to parent on.

As to your questions: Xbox is the best for game play physics and graphics. I am sure there are people who can better speak to the technical aspects, and I find that the young people who work at Game Stop are well informed and helpful. They like to play games and know them all.

The TV needs to have the correct plugs for the gaming system, if it is within 10 years old, you are probably fine. Controllers and the like depend on the games to be played.
Games: Minecraft - world building game, all in blocks. No violence to speak of, totally creative, builds math skills (geometry!!); problem solving; animal husbandry. Not easy but engaging.
Music games - Rock Band or Guitar Hero - here's where more equipment/space is needed. ''Barbie'' body-style female characters, but they are playing in the band.
Sports games - Fifa Soccer is pretty cool.
Portal - future distopia, puzzles and problem solving.
Batman Arkham - this does have fighting, in a good vs. evil sense. Somewhat dark, like the movie franchise. Comic book style.

We have purchased new and used equipment (refurbished) with no problems. Games all from Ebay. As I said, GameStop employees are good resource if they are not too busy. They also have a magazine called Game Informer that give extensive details about game releases. Common Sense Media also has detailed reviews of games. Good Luck! East Bay Mom

As the mom of 3 teenage boys who is also not keen on excessive video-gaming, I hear you. Everyone needs to find their own comfort level with this stuff but this is what we did:

They could have a game system but they had to buy it \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c they pooled their money, shopped craigslist and got a Playstation 3 which they use on our newish flat screen tv.

We still monitor how much they play\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c but are more vigilant with the 13 year old. (As they get older, I think you just have to let them start to exercise their own judgment. The 19 year old never plays and hasn\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t for a couple of years.) And I draw the line at first person shooter games \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c Call of Duty, etc. I personally don\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x84\xa2t consider hunting people down to kill them \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c even virtually- an appropriate source of entertainment. So they play sports games \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c NCAA football, MLB, and other games where they find targets and in some cases shoot them down \xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xe2\x80\x9c like nazi war planes. This may be a fine distinction but one I have chosen to make. Their friends do occasionally come over to play but we are not video game central as some houses are. Good luck! 3 boy mom

My 6th grader son and his friends are all into Minecraft, which you can download for your computer for a nominal price. It is a multiplayer game, sort of like SimCity in that you build houses and roads and etc, but it also has the interaction of other multiplayer games, including shooting and blowing things up, which of course is a big draw. The characters look like Legos. It is very engaging, with increasing complexity as they play more, and it appeals to both geeky kids and blow-em-up kids. It has interesting properties involving geometry, geology, electronics, and more. We run a server at our house that my son's friends (and their friends) login to play on so it's sort of a closed environment, but you can also login to public servers to play. The kids make arrangements with each other about what times they will play, but they also enjoy playing side by side in person (if you have more than one computer at your house). I really like the social negotiation they are learning. Common Sense Media rates this game pretty highly. (By the way you can find lots of game suggestions, by age, on that site.

We have a Wii too which my son has no interest in anymore, though some of his friends who don't have a Wii still do like to play when they come over. But I can't recommend buying a Wii. We have not been asked yet for an xbox or playstation. I have two older boys and a nephew who played and still play a lot of the violent games at this age and honestly I don't have a problem with it for middle school age and above. The data just isn't there to say they are harmful. Some of them are a whole lot of fun.

You might read up on Minecraft and try it out at home on your computer. Also you should find out which game system your son wants. There's nothing worse for a middle school boy than having something his mom picked out that nobody else is interested in! gamer mom

I can definitely feel your pain, but I'll tell you as a mom of a 16 yo boy, if he doesn't play the games at your house he will play them elsewhere. So I went for the controlled approach and instead of a ban on everything, we talk about what's in a game and why it is rated whatever it is rated. Is there graphic sex, domination over women, drug use, graphic violence? These games (like GTA) get vetoed. I've allowed other games that involve some violence, but perhaps not too graphic, or maybe they involve strategy or are unrealistic (fantasy, sci-fi). I'm trying to let him get what he wants while taking him through the decision-making process so that hopefully he learns something. We have an XBox and there are tons of games that are not rated M, and even some rated M that aren't as horrible as I imagined. It is a difficult issue - best of luck! Autumn

When my son got an Xbox 360 (middle school), it was placed in the living room where I could hear the conversations and if I didn't like it, it got turned off. My son is now in high school and it is in his room and he typically only plays with friends that he knows. I can still hear him and actually keeps me in the loop of stuff that is going on and of the latest gossip He also uses it to watch movies and go on You Tube.

My advise-- set up the rules before setting it up!!!!! For instance, if a friend is over during the week or only on weekends, the timer is helpfuI to keep it limited. I would suggest buying the system new, buy used games and accessories at GameStop. They have a great return policy if he doesn't like the game within 7 days and they do have warranties on all the stuff you buy from there. Buy a membership FIRST to GameStop, you get a great magazine and extra discounts when buying used which will help since you are starting fresh. And I know this may sound crazy-- but play a game with him every once in a while. We play soccer, Lego games, and I even try to the shooting games. Some of best conversations have been during a Halo game. Anon

Pre-teen wants to play World of Warcraft

May 2007

My pre-teen son has become very enamored of an online game called World of Warcraft. We have friends whose child is somewhat obsessed with this game. I am getting a lot of pressure from my children to say okay and let them play at home, buy the cd, let them have an account, etc. I think the name of it bothers me the most - however, as my son pointed out, that is pretty much judging a book by its cover! Does anyone have any experience with this game? Is it as awful as it sounds, or is it pretty benign? Pros, cons, any thoughts would be welcome. Thank you. Melissa

Should I let my teen play World of Warcraft?

Sept 2005

My teenaged son and his friends have discovered a game called World of Warcraft. Is anyone familiar with this game? I was told this morning by another parent that it is considered such an addictive game that she won't let her son buy it. It does seem to be pretty consuming. I'm also interested in what limitations other parents put on computer/TV use. We don't allow computer/TV use during the school week, unless it's homework. On the weekends we limit ''screen time'' to two hours per day. Our son says we are the most restrictive parents he knows. Any thoughts? Nontech Mom

Dear Nontech Mom,
I have a 16 year-old son that has been playing World of Warcraft for about a year with a group of his friends. I regret ever having gone down this road and will not allow my younger children to use the computer to the extent that we have allowed our oldest son. I would argue that World of Warcraft (along with many other games) are addictive and create a sedentary, non-communicative, non-social existence. While we also have tried to limit computer use (1 hr on school days, 2 hours on weekends) my son is old enough now to go to friends house where they immerse themselves there in computer games. While I don't have any advice on how to enforce the limits I say good for you for holding your ground and don't give an inch. Mary

Hmm, actually the problem in my house is that I myself get addicted to my kids games - Warcraft, Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Riven, Simcity. I have to get the kids to hide them from me. Seriously, computer games can be very addictive and I've seen it among other teenagers (not mine). Mainly it's a physical problem, like tv, when they spend all that time sitting in one position and not getting any exercise. Different people have different susceptibilities, though. Most kids have a big binge for a week or so, then get bored and want a new game. I tend to only let my kids buy games over the summer so any binges don't affect their schoolwork. So,it could be worth trying one game and seeing whether there's a problem or not. At some point your kids are going to come into contact with computer games, maybe when you're not there to blow the whistle and get them to take a break, learn methods of pacing themselves, and so on. PS You can always snap the disks at a moment's notice. Fiona

My son has played Starcraft/Warcraft since he was 10. It can be addicting, but seems more benign than the super-violent games found on X-Box. The game also offers the opportunity to chat on-line. He and his friends have signed up, giving each other their screen names (I've given him guidelines about on-line chatrooms and our computer is an open area not in his room, and it's used by our whole family to check our own e-mail accounts). I have no objection to his playing as long as the primary objectives--homework, required reading, chores, and keeping up his grades--are met. The other reasons I have no objection is that he's physically very active, is conscientious about homework and gets good grades, but I do keep a close watch. I don't like to subscribe to the hysteria that because something is bad for some must therefore be bad for everyone else, and be banned. It's really a case-by-case call to make and you know what's best for your family. I don't limit any TV time on the weekend, because there's not that much TV to be watched--my son either is playing a sport or playing Warcraft. I suggest just being reasonable, limit some playing time if your son's chores aren't done, or you notice he's not doing homework, or if you see in his first grading period that his grades aren't what you expect, then cut down the computer/TV time. --Anonymous

My son has been playing World of Warcraft for about a year. I asked him to read your post - here are his thoughts: he says he can't argue about it being addictive. You really have to control yourself and learn how to prioritize. But he loves the game because it's so much fun. Socially you get to ''hang out'' with friends on line, you get good at working cooperatively since each character has different abilites and no one can complete an ''instance'' alone. He also claims to be learning money management skills since you get gold and have to buy things but have to watch your budget. From my point of view the game is fine - it's almost like im'ing in that kids get to socialize in addition to (not replacing!!) the times when they're face to face. But limits are critical.

Here's what our rules are: no gaming at all during the week, limited to 4 hours a day on weekends (that may seem like a lot but it can take that long to do a group mission.) He must stay on top of homework and his sports and music commitments, and his grades must stay up or his account gets cancelled. We had to cut him off once to help him get clear on the concept. But now he understands what he needs to do to keep gaming and has been doing a good job with prioritizing. As long as you're clear on how you want it to fit into your son's life, I think it will be fine. WOW Mom

My son and I are both familiar with the Warcraft family of games. While they're certainly addictive, I don't think they're especially addictive -- for some of us, any game at all can be addictive, for a while.

The upside of that is that access to the game becomes a powerful incentive. Letting our son play anything on the computer as much as he wants to has obvious ill effects; making him do something worthwhile first and imposing a time limit causes some grousing but it's worth it.

The Warcraft genre is violent, but in a cartoonish way -- the player's perspective is not from behind a weapon, as in first-person shooter games, but from above the field of play. For what it's worth, unrestrained violence is not a winning strategy; a player must consider his resources, make allies, and so forth. Playing Warcraft hasn't made our kid violent. --John

This was a very useful discussion for me to read. My son recently bought WOW with his own mony, not realizing that it was an online- only game. After some thought (and finding out about the monthly fee) I said it would have to wait till summer.

But I have one concern I'd like to ask those of you whose kids use it about: earlier, when my son wanted to sign up for XBox live, I did some online research and came across many adult users complaining about the level of foul and abusive chat happening during games with others on the system. That made me say no. Does this happen with Wow? Are there any system filters that would help prevent that kind of thing? Has it been a problem for anyone? Thanks! anne

Okay everybody, let's calm down a little bit. For reasons I'll explain below, thinking of computer gameplay as ''addiction'' substitutes labeling for reasoned thought. That's never a useful approach.

Before I go on, let me say that I take the issue seriously, and I don't think it is susceptible of simple, easy answers one way or the other. As those who know me or have read others of my posts will attest, I'm a rather conservative parent and not one who believes that whatever kids want or do is ok. I also want to say that I don\xc2\x92t intend any disrespect or sarcasm towards other views. If I\xc2\x92ve trodden upon anyone\xc2\x92s toes, please forgive me: it was inadvertent and I apologize sincerely.

I've got two sons (20 and 14) who play World of Warcraft (WOW) and other computer games. My older son was a (volunteer) beta tester for WOW. I have struggled with the issue of my childrens' involvement with these games for a number of years. For what it's worth, here's the view I've come to.

First, let's not debase the meaning of ''addictive.'' Its base meaning is ''Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance: e.g., 'heroin addiction.''' No computer game remotely fits that definition.

A secondary meaning of ''addiction'' loosely refers to ''The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something, e.g., 'an addiction for fast cars.''' At most, that subordinate meaning is appropriate in the case of individuals who have a pre-existing disposition to extremes of compulsive behavior. It is by no means appropriate as a description of computer/video gaming in general, nor of the relationship to such games of the vast majority of children and, increasingly, of adults. To label computer gaming ''addictive'' merely forestalls its thoughtful examination.

Kids are habitual and compulsive about play. That's not news, it's the state of nature. The question is, are video games different from other forms of play in ways that compel us as parents to approach them as we would approach truly addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol?

Plainly not. Video games do not kill brain cells -- in fact, the scientific evidence is that they improve and develop certain valuable brain functions. Nor do they carry the terrible physical consequences of addiction: they do not destroy livers or lungs; they do not carry the risks of HIV or hepatitis. They do not create zombies living from one hit to the next. They do not cause the impairment of judgment and physical coordination that leads to life-threatening behaviors like drunken driving. They do not depress heart and brain function to the point of death from sedation. They do not kill their users.

Because of generational differences, we parents inevitably view the gaming phenomenon from a position of limited knowledge. Would we say that our children were 'addicted' or 'compulsive' if they played chess or read books four or more hours a day? Probably not, because we are familiar with those activities and value them. Computer games are different because our generation(s) have little or no direct experience with them. In consequence, we don't know what they are like from the player\xc2\x92s perspective, nor do we have direct experience of their positive or negative effects. That's worth bearing in mind.

It's a struggle for parents (myself especially) to create order in their children\xc2\x92s' lives, especially the lives of teens. Computer games, WOW included, are one of many specific challenges we face in leading our children to a mature, balanced and healthy adulthood.

What parenting challenge does the video game phenomenon create? To me it comes down to one thing: balance. Given the choice, children will play rather than ''work.'' Yet they must work at things that we believe will be of long-term benefit -- studies, physical fitness, responsibility in family life and other areas reflecting our individual values. As parents we must find ways to bring balance to our children's lives, and to teach them the value of balance so that they become self-regulating.

There's nothing peculiar to WOW or other computer games that alters the nature of these challenges -- they exist no matter what our children\xc2\x92s' interests. I can't tell anyone else where to strike the balance; that is hard enough to discover in dealing with my own children. But I can tell you that what I've suggested above asks the right questions: is my child's life balanced, is he getting enough physical activity, is he keeping up with his schoolwork? And so on. Getting into a slanging match over whether he or she is ''addicted'' to a game is just foolish.

Now to World of Warcraft itself. One should not fear its content. Or, given that judgments about content involve personal values and taste, I should say that to me this game's content is not seriously violent or at all disturbing; in fact, it is rather mild. Movies such as ''Alien,'' \xc2\x93The Exorcist\xc2\x94 and any horror film are far, far more disturbing. In fact I find them unendurable. Not so this or most other video games.

Most parents, I think, can safely trust most kids to draw the appropriate distinctions between gaming fantasy and life\xc2\x92s reality. There are exceptions of course, and you\xc2\x92ll know them when you see them. My trust in kids\xc2\x92 usual good sense doesn\xc2\x92t stop me from banning an offensively violent piece of trash ( \xc2\x93Gran Turismo: San Andreas\xc2\x94 springs to mind.) But I find that most children and teens are reasonably sensible about such things. If they aren\xc2\x92t, any fault may lie elsewhere than in the game.

Warcraft's content is comparable to The Lord of the Rings. It is not a ''violent'' game any more than a mystery or suspense novel is ''violent.'' Unlike some games that I detest and (mostly successfully) ban, the combat (and thus \xc2\x91violence\xc2\x92) that occurs is sensorily mild, for lack of a better term. While combat is fundamental to WOW's ''warcraft'' theme and gameplay, neither it nor violence is the essence of its content or its appeal.

World of Warcraft\xc2\x92s true essence is fantasy, the quest, guilds of fellow creatures, imaginative role-playing. Unexpectedly, it instills the work ethic by requiring the player to work steadily and persistently over weeks and months towards a goal. It teaches TANSTAAFL: \xc2\x93There ain\xc2\x92t no such thing as a free lunch.\xc2\x94 (Thanks to Robert Heinlein for that wonderful invention.)

In visual detail, richness and imagination World of Warcraft is a stunning expression of a new art form. The open-minded may find it, as I have come to do, a formidable expression of creative genius. Or they may think I\xc2\x92m an idiot \xc2\x96 reasonable minds can differ. Take a look at a copy of a book called ''The Art of Warcraft'' for a pale taste of the game's visual scope.

As I grow older I find, to my dismay, that I can fall into intellectual laziness and become fixed in my views. Yet for a thinking person this is a habit of mind devoutly to be avoided. To that end I suggest this line of thought: The creation of the personal computer is comparable to the invention of the printing press. Both created the conditions necessary for the emergence of a new creative form. This observation may horrify some, but from my vantage point that horror flows from a failure of vision and historical perspective. Just as the printing press was the precondition to development of the novel as an art form, so also the personal computer has been the wellspring of a new art form, one still in its infancy but redolent of future magnificence.

The video game is one expression of an emerging creative form in which multi-sensory participation directs the story line. Video games, and perhaps a broader art of story-playing they portend, are interactive, three-dimensional, engaging of the imagination, richly graphic and cinematically creative. From a critical perspective one may believe that none of these qualities is as fully developed or well executed as it might be, but that does not alter the essential point: this is a fundamentally new art form. If I\xc2\x92m right in that notion, we might be wise not to stifle our children\xc2\x92s experience of something that will grow to be a part of their world in ways that we can only dimly imagine.

Finally (and I know I do go on), interested readers might want to look at the first chapter (''Games'') of a recent book, ''Everything Bad Is Good For You,'' by Steven Johnson. I don't endorse or reject his arguments, but they are thoughtful and thought-provoking in the same way as Malcolm Gladwell's in ''The Tipping Point.'' Johnson concludes with this observation: ''What you actually do in playing a game -- the way your mind has to work -- is radically different [from what is commonly assumed to be the case.] [Game playing is] about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order.''