- EC (early childhood; three and older)
- K—A (kids six and older to adults)
- T (teenagers, 13 and older)
- M (mature, 17 and older)
- AO (adults only)
These ratings are accompanied by descriptions such as “realistic blood and gore” and “use of drugs.”
Teens are attracted to video games for different reasons. Many games feature dreamy alternative landscapes, mind-bending puzzles, realistic graphics, and, of course, blood and guts. Glance at a game like Mortal Kombat—where winning a fight allows you to do away with your opponent in several inventive and gruesome ways, including ripping his head off—and it's easy to see why parents are concerned.
Video games do have their benefits, though. Not all games involve graphically killing an opponent. A slew of puzzle games that make you think (such as Tetris and Zoop) are still popular with teens. Also, many video games, from Super Mario Brothers to Street Fighter, help develop eye-hand coordination, and because the games come without instructions or blueprints, teens have a great time sharing gaming secrets and strategies.
However, when the love of video games becomes too compelling, it's time to pull the plug, or at least set some limits. If your teen is placing video or computer games above chores, homework, or even social gatherings, it's time to lay down some clear rules: No video games until homework is finished, or only one hour of video gaming a night.
Video games are not something that should be banned, but they shouldn't dominate everything else in your teen's life.