Putting Your Parents at Ease about Video Games

The simple truth is that your parents would probably prefer it if you never wanted to play a video game in your life. And let's be honest, with games becoming more violent and kids becoming more obese from lack of activity, they've got reasons to be concerned. But this doesn't mean your hope of getting Halo 3 or Madden NFL 08 has to be gone forever. Here are a few ways to ease your parents' minds about video games.

First, be the one to start the conversation about video games. If you already have a game system, be proactive and go to them and say, "You probably hear a lot of bad news about video games; do you have any concerns about me?" Or if you want to ask your parents to buy you a game console, say, "I'd like a Wii (or PS3, or online game of your choice, etc.) for my birthday. Can we talk about it?" Be serious when you start this conversation; if you joke around, your parents will assume that you're leading them on.

Understand why your parents might disapprove of particular games. What bothers parents the most in some games are the level of violence, drug and alcohol use, and negative (or sexual) images of women. Make a promise to your parents that you're not interested in things like first-person shooter games or games with nudity or drug use, and stick to it. Offensive language can be another sticking point: if you're like most kids, a swear word isn't a big deal to you, but such language is very offensive to a lot of parents. Respect their limits and promise not to buy games they don't approve of. They'll respect your maturity.

Invite your parents to play any game you purchase so they can understand why it interests you and feel confident that you're not playing games that are violent or offensive. Also occasionally ask a parent to play a two-player game with you. If nothing else, you'll get to spend some time together.

Consider writing a contract with your parents that documents when you're allowed to play and what you have to do to keep (or play) your games. Put it in writing that if your grades fall or your waistline increases from inactivity that they have your permission to take the game console away. Also consider documenting the number of hours you will play each week, or trade off gaming time for chores (cleaning the kitchen after dinner = 30 minutes, changing the cat litter pan = 10 minutes, etc.).

Stress the positive aspects of some games. Look for games that utilize multiple players or teams so you'll be interacting with others and not be holed up in your bedroom by yourself. Or consider a Wii and play tennis, boxing, or baseball, so you're moving more than just a joystick and getting some activity.

Finally, if your parents want to set parental controls on your games or consoles, let them. If you have a fit about them trying to, well, "parent" you, they have a right to turn you down. If you respect your parents' rights to be a parent, they will respect your right to be a kid.