Paul Asay writes about video games and pop culture for www.pluggedinonline.com, a parent-friendly Web site from Focus on the Family's Youth Culture division.
Asay says: "Today's $9.5-billion gaming industry is slick, sophisticated and, for some parents, a little scary."
Here are his tips for parents who want to shepherd their children through today's wide-open world of gaming.
1. Talk with them. Christian families differ on what forms of entertainment they'll allow in their homes, but make sure your children understand what your family's standards are. Then examine entertainment choices, including games, on a case-by-case basis.
2. Understand the ratings system. There are six letter grades, ranging from "E" (suitable for everyone) to "AO" (adults only), with "M" being the equivalent of an "R" movie rating (restricted to users 17 and up). Use them as a starting pointbut not a stamp of approval.
3. Make it social. Place your gaming system in well-used areas of the house and invest in games that multiple people can play. Keep extra controllers handy.
4. Play along. Knowledge is power, and the more you understand these games, the better you'll 1) be able to critique them, and 2) talk to your children about them. Plus you might find that some games can provide excellent bonding opportunitiesand are an awful lot of fun.
(Articles and reviews of current video games and other pop culture resources can be found at: www.pluggedinonline.com.)