Kids, Parents, and Video Games

The pros and cons of video games.

Posted Apr 20, 2011

Video games stir up more controversy between kids and parents than almost anything else. Kids love 'em - and parents, well, at best have mixed feelings about them.

There is a terrific recent book which addresses many of the issues surrounding video games.  The title is Video Game Play and Addiction: A Guide for Parents (iUniverse, 2008).  It was written by Kourosh Dini, MD.  Dr. Dini is a child psychiatrist, having done a Child Fellowship at the University of Chicago.  He is also Board Certified in Psychiatry and a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association.  This book is the Winner of Mom's Choice Award and Winner of Gold National Parenting Publication Award.

Dr. Dini notes the following about video games in general:

  • Video games are tremendously varied in terms of involvement, content, and re-playability.
  • Video games can be a source of social discussion with peers.
  • Video games can be learning tools.
  • Meanwhile, video games can also be used to avoid responsibilities and the difficulties inherent to development.

The following areas may become problematic:

  • Control - If a person has an unpredictable or overwhelming environment, games can provide a form of shelter.  As a result, one may avoid actively working on the making the environment a more predictable and enjoyable place.
  • Self-esteem and Community - If a person does not feel valued or does not feelhe/she has much to contribute to their peers, family, academic or work environments, one may attempt to pursue this feeling of value in another environment such as an online game world.
  • Identity - If a person does not know who they wish to be, he or she may attempt to pursue this growth in a game world.  The development of one's identity is closely related to their association to the community.
  • Mastery - If a person does not have a place to play and go through the natural paths of mastering something, the game worlds can offer a ready made playground to do so.  As a result, one may be less inclined to attempt to play and master a skill outside of the game worlds.

Dr. Dini also has suggestions for parents and children about the use of video games.

  1. Video game play can be healthy as long as one takes care in how they are played.  Likely, the most important aspect for a parent is involvement.  If you can play the game alongside your child, you will have direct access to how they play and what it is about the game they value.  You can also enjoy a period of bonding and have fun in the process of playing.
  2. Prior to buying a game, make sure you have either read the reviews online, played the game yourself, or at least watched some of the game play.  Often, some video footage of the game is available online before a game is even released.  After it is released, many players will upload video footage of the game to video sharing sites such as YouTube.
  3. Review the ESRB ratings available on every game box.  The ESRB is a video game rating board which rates games similar to movies.
  4. Make sure that responsibilities - academic, home or otherwise - are clearly spelled out.  Have consequences for failing to meet those responsibilities also clearly spelled out (for example, limitation or removal of game time with a return of privilege upon meeting responsibilities again).

Video games are fascinating in many ways.  The ideas above are at least a way to help parents and children think and talk about video games.

You are welcome to read more about video games and contact Dr. Dini at the following: 

His website is and

His twitter feed is