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When Are Kids Old Enough to Play Videogames? 503

Posted by Zonk
from the old-enough-to-make-the-jump-in-1-1 dept.
A piece at the MTV Multiplayer blog is exploring the issue of kids and gaming, wondering aloud how old is 'old enough'. A recent CES talk indicated that you should wait until at least seven to introduce your children to Mario, and we've talked in the past about the educational role games can have. MTV's Tracey John spoke to a pair of mothers who offered their own opinions on this topic: "When I asked Alisa why she thought that games weren't imaginative and explained that many games have challenging, puzzle-solving elements, she conceded a little but remained skeptical. 'Honestly, I haven't really explored video games thoroughly, and I'm sure there are video games that fit more the bill of something that I'd be interested in, but I'm kind of hard-pressed to find a game that's like reading a book or something like that. I understand the kids like it, so I allow them to do it; it's monitored but it's not my favorite thing for them to be doing.'" What's the right age for a kid to start playing games? Do you see games as more or less acceptable than traditional kid pastimes like TV or reading? Does it matter if the parents are gaming-savvy?
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When Are Kids Old Enough to Play Videogames?

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  • by umrguy76 (114837) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:24PM (#22170412) Homepage
    the parent(s) decide they are old enough. IMHO

    Take some responsibility for your kids, parents, it doesn't hurt as bad as you might think.
    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:31PM (#22170562) Journal
      You know, part of taking responsibility is listening to expert opinions before making your decision. Making an arbitrary choice without becoming informed first is not taking responsibility, it's avoiding it.
      • by rucs_hack (784150) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:50PM (#22170884)
        You know, part of taking responsibility is listening to expert opinions before making your decision.

        Which experts, the ones working for the games industry, or the ones sponsored by 'pro family' groups?

        Expert advice is ok up to a point, that point being not very far on what should be a relatively simple issue.

        Young kids need exercise to build themselves up, and they won't get it by sitting on their backsides playing games. If you can't figure that one out for yourself 'expert' advice won't do jack.

        A mum in my street with exactly the same access to information as me has two horrendously overweight and unhealthy kids (seriously, adult weight at 13, thats serious, and they started off thin). My kid likes the games, but he gets plenty of exercise, and wasn't allowed to start playing computer games a lot until I was sure he had a decent amount of time running about/playing in his life occurring *without* a special effort being made.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by prelelat (201821)
          You could also consider health experts that have done research in what is a good amount of physical exercise in a day. I don't think I would listen to either the gaming industry or the pro family groups, they are setting precedents on morality for my kids. I would rather give my children the same morality as I got growing up. That might be hard but I don't think you can judge every kid the same.

          Anyways well put.
        • by flyingsquid (813711) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:57PM (#22171936)
          Yes, it's all about responsible parenting. It's not that hard, though. To give you an example, just yesterday my two-and-a-half year old son went up behind his mother and tried to hit her in the back of the head with a banana. When I asked Junior what he was doing, he explained that he was trying to use his .45 to "pwn mommy for being a nOOb" because she was making him go to bed early.

          Naturally, being responsible parents, my wife and I have decided that junior has been playing a bit too much Halo 3. Tonight, he will only get to play Halo for four hours, instead of the usual five. See, parenting is all about employing that kind of responsible judgment.

          • That of weapon choice. No way your kid is going to pwn anyone in Halo if he's using the first thing he finds (e.g. banana), it needs to be a split second decision based on what is available vs strengths and weaknesses of opponent.

            Don't worry, he'll get it, but not if you cut him back to 4 hours, this requires mentoring by you and probably 8 to 10 hours per day, anything less is child abuse. Go get 'em.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by holophrastic (221104)
          Which experts? I'll tell you which experts. The ones that say milk is good, and the ones that say milk is bad, and the ones that say eggs are good, and the ones that say eggs are bad, and the ones that say meat is good, and the ones that say meat is bad.

          So which experts? The ones that say games are good, and the ones that say games are bad.

          Never listen to what experts say. Consider what experts say. And then make your own damn decision, be responsible and accountable for your own decisions, and be prou
      • by darkuncle (4925) <darkuncleNO@SPAMdarkuncle.net> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:04PM (#22171122) Homepage
        When you find somebody who's really qualified to give "expert" opinions on how random people should raise their kids (keeping in mind situations and kids and parents are all different in many ways), you let me know.

        In the meantime ... I'm entirely comfortable making my own decisions on how to raise my kids (4.5 and 2). The 4yo would play Yoshi's Island (DS) every waking hour if we let her, but we don't. :) She's learned letters, numbers, colors, phonics, reading and basic math through a combination of us reading with her, educational games (LeapFrog is your friend here), websites like starfall.com (hat tip to Gabe @ Penny-Arcade) and good old-fashioned one-on-one teaching and repetition.

        Games have their place, just like anything else (including computers; she can't type yet, but she can navigate her favorite educational websites just fine). They're no more or less dangerous to kids' development than Baby Einstein videos, or educational TV, or pop-up books, or [insert controversial newfangled technology here].

        The key here, as with everything else in life, is moderation and good sense.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by syousef (465911)
          When you find somebody who's really qualified to give "expert" opinions on how random people should raise their kids (keeping in mind situations and kids and parents are all different in many ways), you let me know.

          Careful, you'll have every religious person cite their deity and their holy book.

          That was a serious and honest observation. I wonder if it'll get modded troll.
          • by darkuncle (4925) <darkuncleNO@SPAMdarkuncle.net> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:14PM (#22173202) Homepage
            I have a Deity, and a holy Book, and I find wisdom therein. :) However, said Deity also blessed me with a brain and some common sense, and I am rather more willing to consult both of those than random strangers (well-regarded, educated or otherwise) who have no personal knowledge of me or my kids.

            I wouldn't mod you troll - but I also don't feel any particular need to consult "experts" (aside from my folks, who have already demonstrated their wisdom and experience to me, and others who have already gained my trust) for advice. However, I also don't disregard advice from someone just because they're a stranger - wisdom can come from many places.

            (infrequently found in slashdot comments though :))
      • by 2nd Post! (213333)
        What if you are the expert?
        Why is it arbitrary if you make the decision without consulting experts?
        What expert would you recommend, by the way, since you believe there are experts out there better versed than a parent?

        Taking responsibility means living with the consequences of those actions.

        In this case, why is playing video games any worse than reading, watching TV, listening to music, or watching a movie? My daughter has been "playing" Wii Tennis since the age of one. For her it's another "thing" to inter
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:45PM (#22170804) Journal
      the parent(s) decide they are old enough. IMHO

      From the sumary:

      'Honestly, I haven't really explored video games thoroughly, and I'm sure there are video games that fit more the bill of something that I'd be interested in, but I'm kind of hard-pressed to find a game that's like reading a book or something like that. I understand the kids like it, so I allow them to do it; it's monitored but it's not my favorite thing for them to be doing

      Parents should know what they're letting their kids do before they let them do it. I was playing arcade games long befpre I had any kids, the quoted parent should do a little research, both on child development and the games themselves.

      I sought out videogames for my kids. Sesame Street games when they were Sesame Street age, Carmen Santiago later, etc. When they were teens we had a couple of PCs networked and played Road Rash and Quake II together.

      Oddly, my ex-wife came to hate video games after enjoying the arcades earlier and the daughters became "daddy's girls" (I played whiffleball with them, as well as playing their "girl things" with them since their mom wouldn't, too. Evil-X wasn't a very good mom). My youngest turns 21 in March, she's manager of a Gamestop store now.

      But what would you expect from the daughter of the guy who started the Springfield Fragfest Quake site?

      But more freom the ignorant parent quoted above: I'm kind of hard-pressed to find a game that's like reading a book

      Hear that, game developers? How about some old fashioned early 80s text adventures?

      or something like that

      Where in the world is Carmen Santiago? My kids loved that game. IIRC they were in grade school, but honestly I enjoyed it, too.

      -mcgrew
    • by UnanimousCoward (9841) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:48PM (#22170846) Homepage Journal
      Totally agree with the above.

      My $0.02: We don't allow our kids to play video games in our house, but don't say that they can't do so at their friends' houses. That way, we never see our kids :-)
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I got my 18 month old playing video games. Not every day, but once every couple weeks I'll sit her down with the GameCube and Disney Cars. She's smart enough to push the big green button to drive, and steer a little bit, but the driving is completely random, and not controlled in anyway whatsoever. Sometimes she'll just press the start button over and over again to hear the horn beeping. I don't think kids are ever really too young for video games. It's something fun to do, and is probably a lot better
  • Seriously, not all kids are the same. Okay, if you want a relative benchmark: when they're old enough to enjoy it. There. They're still young enough that you can control what games they play and for how long.

    I swear, what's with the slashdot obsession over video games?

    • by winkydink (650484) *
      Exactly! My 5-yr old loves Disney Toontown. And it does require some abstract reasoning & puzzle solving.
    • by LithiumX (717017) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:46PM (#22170818)

      Seriously, not all kids are the same. Okay, if you want a relative benchmark: when they're old enough to enjoy it. There. They're still young enough that you can control what games they play and for how long.
      Agreed. I don't believe there is a lower boundary to gaming, only lower limits for specific types of games - and those limits depend on the child.

      I started my niece and nephew on games at an early age - but I kept it strictly limited to older and simpler games, primarily Atari 2600 ports. When they're 3-4 years old, they can't understand anything overly complicated and should focus primarily on movement and avoidance, as well as pursuit of obvious goals. The games should be fairly easy as well, until they begin to reach their second decade (or until they start to show real skill and need a challenge).

      A younger kid can easily enjoy a primitive video game just as well as we could (back when those games were new). It's not until they're exposed to more modern games that the old games begin to show their age. Tempest, Galaga, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Robotron, and other simple games are ideal for children. Save the modern console games for later, when their minds are hungry for more. Educational games are great, but entertainment is a goal in itself - and entertainment is the first priority of any game, with educational value being a secondary bonus in some cases. Do the education yourself, and let them learn to have fun with their games before you start turning them into work.

      That said, educational games are extremely useful, and can form a major component of their learning. They have little value until the child can read well, though. Reading software is entertaining, but usually (from what I've experienced with my relatives) are susceptible to being bypassed by an imaginative child - my niece got through most of her "reading" games without bothering to actually read much.

      The key issue, and the one that people usually seem to miss or be incapable of enforcing, is moderation. Limited video game time will not harm your child. Parents can maintain total control of any source of video games when their children are young, and can maintain significant control even into their teens. The primary mistake average parents make is the same one our parents usually made with TV - specifically, using it as a pacifier. If you hand your kid a console, show them how to use it on their own, and then provide very little supervision, the kid WILL spend hours upon hours on his games. Too much time spent in a virtual environment just plain isn't good - but that doesn't mean that limited and controlled time, especially when active parental interaction is involved, is in any way damaging.

      Moderation is key, in almost all things. Especially when it comes to children and video games.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I swear, what's with the slashdot obsession over video games?

      Have you seen the masthead? Hint: It's not "news for middle aged IT managers and PHBs". If you are in fact a nerd, then you are the first one I've ever seen who isn't at at least interested in video games.

      BTW, I'm 55 and I still play them.

      -mcgrew

      Lucky you, no journal today.
    • exactly! age has very little do do with when you introduce kids to video games or anything else for that matter. there are younger kids able/mature enough to play video games than much older kids that really don't have the maturity/skill to play. being dead set on a certain age is just another lazy and ignorant excuse parents use to justify their lack of involvement in what their kids are doing. "You can't play this game until you're 12" is another way of saying "I don't want you to play this because I
  • I was at a computer show&sale once and one of the people running one of the booths had his kids (I assume) sitting on the table behind him playing some car racing game. They couldn't have been older than two and three.
  • by lonesome_coder (1166023) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:25PM (#22170432)
    ...they know not to wiped out my saved game. Little bastards...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sayfawa (1099071)
      ...and learn how to put the disks back in their cases instead of data side down on the floor. Filthy rugrats.
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:26PM (#22170442) Journal
    No reason to force your kindergartner to play Grand Theft Auto, but if they want to play Mario or Pong or Tetris, it'll probably do more for their brain and development than passively watching VeggieTales.
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:36PM (#22170662) Journal
      it'll probably do more for their brain and development

      I think the key to both activities is adult interaction. With my 4-year-old, he plays some strategy games on the computer, and I explain a little about what is going on and why. When I am at work, he will play around and show me what he has come up with, and sometimes I am impressed what his little mind comes up with. I think if he were just left on his own mashing buttons, he'd get little out of it (now when the little booger can beat me at the games, it won't be so cute ). Same with TV shows. If you find educational programming and spend time discussing and applying it, then it can be useful. You don't even want to know how many life lessons you can get from Thomas the Tank Engine!

  • Edubuntu (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spribyl (175893) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:26PM (#22170446)
    I installed Edunbuntu on a old laptop and my 4yr old loves the Childs Play games.
    I have a one of the $20 multi game things. Mr PacMan, Pole Pos, Xevious, Mappy, Galaga.
    My kids like to watch me and my wife play.
    My two year old thinks he is the ghosts when he plays Ms. Pacman, and he also seems to like Xevious.
    I should note my kids don't know how to work the VCR, DVD, or TV remote and are have a very limited TV schedule and game time is even less then that.

    So I guess, when they are able to physically play let them play. It is now part of our culture.
    I expect to get a wii sometime this year just need to save my pennies.
  • TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveo0331 (469843) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:26PM (#22170452) Homepage Journal
    Playing a video game, where they're actually interacting, thinking, solving puzzles, whatever, is far better than just sitting there passively staring at the screen. And if you get them a Wii, there's even an element of exercise to it.
    • Playing a video game, where they're actually interacting, thinking, solving puzzles, whatever, is far better than just sitting there passively staring at the screen. And if you get them a Wii, there's even an element of exercise to it.

      Agreed... much better than the "glass teat" as the Onion puts it. The only thing I'd add is that as long as it's in moderation and mixed up with other activities, I think it would be more beneficial than not having video games. Having kids play with Lego, Tinkertoy, Meccano, etc. is also vital for their spatial awareness. Combine video games with physical toys and getting them outdoors for some social sports, and I think that would make for a fairly well-rounded kid.

    • by joggle (594025)
      She wasn't comparing playing games to watching TV but to reading books.

      While there is problem solving and such playing games I find that I'm usually thinking more abstract concepts and higher order thoughts when reading interesting books so I can see her point.

      To me, the key is moderation, especially with playing video games.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FLEB (312391)
        Even better than reading, too, is getting kids to actually create something, rather that achieve or solve preordained puzzles. Drawing, writing, play-acting... or even getting them started on a programming language once they can read, so they can make their own games. (An old BASIC computer/implementation, or something very high-level and instant-gratification like INFORM 7 might be good.)

        I know I was personally quite a way ahead of my peers in things like algebra growing up, from little more than having to
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by CastrTroy (595695)
          Drawing is one thing most kids don't really get the chance to do. A lot of parents will give kids crayons and a coloring book and say their kid is doing art. And while those can be great, it doesn't really give the kid a chance to create anything. Give the kid a blank piece of paper, and see what they draw.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285)
      Games are a safe way to learn to interact with the world. Most of the question of when and which games a child should play are really a question of who can I teach my child to interact with the world in which I, as a parent, wish they would. So, some parents are OK with boys playing with guns and girls playing with pots and pans, or boys playing football and girls dressing like Paris Hiton, and some are not. Some want every minutes of every day to be filled with healthy competition and others are obsesse
  • by Erioll (229536) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:27PM (#22170462)
    You have to approach this through terms they know, in that any form of media you expose kids to, you have to ask someone why one is OK and another isn't? If it's pure ignorance, they have no case. If they start citing things like violence, imagery, etc, you confront them with the ratings system, and inquire about how they choose movies, TV, etc, and why they'd allow a higher rating on the games than the other media, and then start complaining about the games.

    Just as I wouldn't expose a child to the "Saw" series I probably wouldn't give them GTA or some of the more gory games either. So why is there such an uproar about the latter, but not the former? It's just plain ignorance.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Right out of the hospital, I'd say. It's a matter of finding the right controller. A tit shaped force feedback controller perhaps?
  • I was 3 when I first played a video game. It was PacMan on an Atari. Never really cared for it, though. Then I got a Nintendo for Christmas of 1990. I was 5.

    Seven is a good age, and five is okay as well. But I'd be paying close attention to the games my child plays, and the games he/she plays at their little friends' house. If I find them playing Grand Theft Auto at the next-door neighbor's house at the age of 10, I'm going to have a stern talk with the parent. They can't use the excuse "video games are
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crabpeople (720852)

      "Grand Theft Auto at the next-door neighbor's house at the age of 10, I'm going to have a stern talk with the parent."

      Why? You do know that video games are not real right? They arent actually stealing real cars... My girlfriends 5 year old loves just driving around in GTA, because he sees me driving around IRL and wants to imitate it. Its more about spending time with the kids then the content of the game. Racing games where you can both drive around together teaches sportsmanship and gives the kid a sense

    • I was 3 when I first played a video game. It was PacMan on an Atari. Never really cared for it, though.

      That is relatively close to my timeline, except I was raised by hippies. None of this coddling, think of the children BS. I was taught right and wrong, the differences between fantasy/fiction/reality, that I could say or do anything as long as it did not hurt another person, and that a person's word should never be broken. I was let into the real world.

      That being said, I grew up cussing, watching what ever tv program I wished (not based on ratings), playing any make-believe game I could think of no ma

  • by netsavior (627338) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:29PM (#22170508)
    I have 2 kids, 2.5 and 1.5 they both have always had video games around I mean they probably heard Zelda In utero. They both know how to move a guy on the screen with a d-pad, they both know how to push buttons, how to get a game to boot up on a gameboy (insert game switch power on).

    There was no "start" I played games with the kids in my lap from the first day they were born. It is part of their life, part of their culture, part of their education.

    It is like asking how old they should be before they are allowed to listen to a conversation...
    • Here here.

      Playing video games, while holding a tiny baby in the lap -- same here.

      She first started playing Starcraft when she was 4, [taoriver.net] I am proud to say, and yet she was playing Wind Waker before that.

      Amber & I both remember with great fondness when we first found her, running around in Wind Waker, fully competent, attacking goblins with a sword. Just the day before, she was bonking into walls. 24 hours later, she's running around gleefully, cheering, hacking up monsters. We are so proud!

      Presently, she
  • When they're old enough to hold a controller you can start them out with Pacman. When they're a little older, move on to Mario. When they're 10 or so, introduce them to Doom. When they're 13 or 14, they can probably handle some GTA. It's like the history of the video game industry in microcosm. Ontogeny recapitulates gameogeny?
  • First, I started programming before I was seven. BASIC for the TRS-80 Model I, and it only warped my slightly.

    Second, My kids started Flash based games at 2 and 3-years old. For my older, I think it is good to teach him decision making, and giving him a desire to read (so he doesn't have to ask daddy which button to push each time he starts a new game).

    I will not allow them to play a game with violence to people (or animals).... I steer away from them myself (usually ). A five year old playing Mortal Kombat
  • Oblig Mitch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb (118938) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:30PM (#22170542) Journal
    "Every book is a childrens book if the kid can read."

    Whether a child is "Ready" for such things isnt something that can really be generalized. It really depends on each individual child, their ability to see the difference between reality and escapism, and their desire to make use of this kind of media.
  • hmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:31PM (#22170556) Homepage
    When I was growing up, for educational games we had Number Munchers, Oregon Trail, Otter Lake, etc. While educational, we never really thought of them as being so because of how they were designed; they were just plain fun, while still being highly educational. Most games I see for kids nowadays seem to be more about entertainment than education.

    For me personally, I would want my kid to play things like an Atari 2600, old NES games, old arcade games like Galaga, etc. The purpose behind this is to improve their hand/eye coordination and reaction time, two things that would benefit them in every day life. While every child is different, if pressed to pick an average I would say sometime between the ages of 4-6, depending on the intelligence level and how quickly they developed.
  • by alta (1263)
    Ok, they're 5.5 and 3.5. Both boys. They currently play Starwars battlefront II, and starwars lego's on the PS2. The younger one has a harder time, so he's not as interested, but he loves to visit noggin, Sesame street, starfall, Nick, which all are educational. The older one LOVES to play transformers on the PC, and used to love need for speed underground, but when he got old enough where I thought he'd notice the questionable language and skin colored graphics, that game suddenly dissapeared. They hav
    • by HappyDrgn (142428)
      Lego starwars is a great example of a good kid friendly game. It teaches some simple problem solving and is very fun, in fact I played it a lot until I completed 100% of it. My 4 year old (boy) loves it and plays it all the time.
  • I'm 19, so I'm relatively young, the first game I played was Duck Hunt, at a friends house, when I was about 4. My parents didn't care if I occasionally played SNES or Genesis at my friends houses, but they were apprehensive for me to have my own system. My parents decided to see if I would go bonkers playing games and ignoring everything else if I had a system, so we borrowed my uncle's Genesis, put it in my bedroom with an old tv, that wasn't hooked up to cable or anything. I played a few hours a week, so

  • by landimal_adurotune (824425) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:36PM (#22170660) Homepage
    When we were snowed in last week my daughter and I played some Wii tennis. She's 3.5 years old, bowling was a bit much for her and she lacked the eye-hand coordination for the baseball game. She also likes to hop around on Dance Dance Revolution mats, but is pretty far from being able to line up steps with the screen.
    I know I was a Pac-man player around age 5-6, but with the Wii being so engaging I can see kids taking off using it sooner. Plus in areas with terrible weather it is a nice way to keep kids moving when outdoor play is not available.
  • Old enough? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:38PM (#22170684) Homepage
    My daughter is already facinated by games, and she's 3. She loves watching daddy play WoW, and most Wii games. She doesn't have the cooridnation yet, but she still loves to play games.

    I think any time a child shows interest in any activity, as long as it's monitored and moderated, they should be allowed to do it. And as far as how it compares to the TV; games are more like books that a child can play. I personally think they rank right up there with books as far as importance in this day and age ( note that this means if my daughter plays games for an hour, we read for an hour too ).
  • My 5 year old showed really no interest in computers until he was 4 years old. He plays age appropriate games, eg the stuff Fisher Price put out but also loves Guitar Hero. I don't see any problem with video games, they are improving his hand-eye coordination and rational thinking.

    My 2 year old, on the other hand is already into computers but still at the randomly hitting keys to see what happens stage. So, we have an older machine that I don't mind him beating up on and some simple video games to nuture
  • partitioned my c: drive and installed Kubuntu whilst I was outside cleaning the car. She was playing Portal when I left her - I swear it was under twenty minutes and I was watching her through the window the hole time!
    • by Firehed (942385)
      I think you were just looking at the other side of the portal, looking at a different window entirely. She's even more clever than you know.

      Just keep her away from the cake. Between the sugar and the disappointment to find out about the lie, it'll be a bad experience.
  • . . . as soon as Duke Nukem Forever is released!
  • by timster (32400) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:42PM (#22170742)
    A skills-based game, like Super Mario Bros. as a classic example, teaches the meaning of success and failure (something schools increasingly don't do). If you are good enough, you will win; otherwise, you fail. But everyone fails at first, over and over again; these games teach that if you want to be good at something, you have to suffer through being bad at it for a while, but you will eventually improve.

    Games like the traditional JRPG or most MMORPGs probably shouldn't be played by children, as they teach that the way to succeed is not to improve your own skills, but to put in a lot of time leveling up. This perspective will be useless in the real world unless they get one of the few seniority-based union jobs.

    This sort of philosophical distinction is seldom appreciated in discussions of children and video games, being drowned out by a debate centered on violence, but I think that in a long-term sense it's a much more important consideration.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! (213333)
      Why is "grinding" a bad skill to learn? It teaches patience and the rewards of practice.

      Just like real life.
  • It all depends... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter@teda[ ]net.eg ['ta.' in gap]> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:43PM (#22170768) Journal
    It all depends on how much cognitive development you want to provide for your child.

    I contend that video games don't harm cognitive development, but they (for the most part) don't help it either. Books, on the other hand, do. It's not so much on what's the appropriate time, but rather how much time is appropriate. I started playing video games at the age of seven, but my hours were heavily regulated by my mom, who (like the librarian she was) made sure that I was reading my quota of books for the week and getting my schoolwork done. On the other hand, if you're letting a seven-year-old frag away for five hours a day, then I'd really start getting concerned.

    For those who disagree with my statement that video games do not help cognitive development, they don't. Cognitive science research indicates that students develop with "experience," experience being anything that a child experiences, from eating a meal to smelling something yucky to hitting a baseball to getting hit by a snowball to climbing a kitchen cabinet to get to the cookie jar that mom set down on top. Then, as a child learns words, they match words to experiences. If a child limits what they do every day to watching TV and playing video games, they don't get much opportunity to learn by doing. And for a child, tactile learning and feedback plays a crucial role in cognitive development.
  • My 5 year old has enjoyed playing video games with her dad for the last year or so. She loves throwing curve balls and change ups at me in wii baseball, and is wicked at wii tennis (bowling bores her, as does golf) About 3 months ago, we were playing a kart racing sim (she steers, I work the gas), when I had to get up for something. I was ASTONISHED to come back and see her playing on her own, after having relocated the pedals to where she could hit them with her one foot, while standing up, and steering w
  • by Xian97 (714198) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:48PM (#22170848)
    I have two children. One played mostly educational games such as the Jumpstart and Reader Rabbit series from an early age, even pre-kindergarten. The other showed no interest in games and preferred to play with traditional toys. The one that played games is in the top 10% of their age group for reading and reading comprehension, where the one that did not play games is an average reader. Both grew up in the same environment with lots of children's books to read and have had bedtime stories read to them since birth. They even had the same school teachers, yet one surpasses the other. I am pretty sure the educational software had a large part in assisting a beginning reader and giving them a solid foundation to build on.
  • by Kludge (13653)
    My son started playing Pokemon when he was 3. By the time he was 5 he could read all of it and follow the story without my help.

    Of course, this happened because when he played it, I played it with him, and I asked him to read words where he could.

    Games are what kids love. And they are great tools if you can get games that require thought or reading like Pokemon.

    Now he is older and I'm teaching him to make his own video games with Blender. Fun for me too!
  • My daughter has preferred to watch me play games (and kibbitz) over actually playing on her own. She's taking the reins more and more, though, and I'm not trying to dictate what is better... when it comes to learning, I feel that what she finds fun is better for her.

    When my kid was 5, I started letting her watch AND try navigating in 3D games like Ty the Tiger. She understood what she was watching but wasn't able to navigate with confidence. "Can you get me to the bridge again?"

    When she was 7, she l

  • Television?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morari (1080535) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:54PM (#22170970) Journal

    What's the right age for a kid to start playing games? Do you see games as more or less acceptable than traditional kid pastimes like TV or reading? Does it matter if the parents are gaming-savvy?
    I sure as heck find them a lot more acceptable than TV! Never would I have considered that a "traditional kid pastime".
  • If you refer to modern games, there are games that I don't think I'm old enough for :)

    That being said, there are tons of "educational" and brain stimulating games out there. Reading Rabbit, Brain Age, that stupid talking fish, that are great games for kids. The problem with the modern gaming era is that there aren't really any games that break from the first person shooter or RTS to be suitable for kids. Its not like when we were kids and there were games like Kings Quest (even the VGA remake) that were lik
  • I do NOT watch television, and despise broadcast television. It is difficult for me at times when I have to explain to people things like: No, I've not seen that beer commercial, and no, I don't know what a soup nazi is, who is Kramer?

    You can hide your kids from games all you want, but if all their friends are playing them, you are effectively isolating them from the social circles they should be able to take part in.

    I have to try to learn stuff about television happenings over the weekend so I don't look t
  • ...and I seem to have made it OK in life.

    For the longest time we only had Combat, Maze Craze and Space Invaders.

    Combat was great, Maze Craze was my favorite (my dad hated it though) and I later found out that "Santa" had been up playing Space Invaders every night for several weeks before Christmas. ;)

    From there on I got games at a pretty slow trickle, which gave me the chance to really play the hell out of each game before moving onto another, which was actually really good. I'm sure my reading and

  • What about LEGOS!? Seriously, they have a track record of several decades of non-damaging, brain-challenging, mind-engaging entertainment, and have been responsible for the last ~75 years of engineers. On that note, you might want to keep your kids away from them, or else the /. boards will be flooded in 15 years. Who knows what logical thinking and problem solving will do to today's society?
  • by buddyglass (925859) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @02:58PM (#22171028)

    They're an entertaining diversion that, while not inherently destructive, can be damaging when eaten to excess or in place of other foods. I'm giving games the benefit of the doubt and assuming we're talking about age-appropriate titles and not GTA. Some games have puzzles, but it's nothing compared to, say, playing a strategy board game, doing a crossword puzzle, playing chess, etc. And games do little to enhance verbal ability, unlike reading. If you want to develop fine motor skills, why not take up billiards, foosball, table tennis, golf, etc.

    Just like eating one serving of fries isn't going to kill you, neither will playing a moderate amount of games rot a kid's brain. But if he eats fries five times a day and consequently skips the vegetables and fruit...there will be consequences. Also, just like fries (and other unhealthy foods) games can be quite addictive.

  • by SplatMan_DK (1035528) * on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:00PM (#22171058) Homepage Journal
    Parents holding their kids back from videogames probably have all the best intentions in mind - as they should, since kids are in no position to do so by themselves. The constant rabble about Japanese teenagers dying at the local internet café after playing WOW 36 hours straight, or kids steeling cars after playing GTA is all the reason most parents need to be sceptic about computergames.

    The lack of games actually targeted towards 2-7 year old kids is a much bigger problem IMHO.

    I am a 34 year old gamer, and I have a 2½ year old daughter. I have tried on countless occasions to teach her how to play games (on our PC, Mac, Xbox PS2, DS) but most of the games are either too abstract or too advanced for her. Keep in mind that something as simple as "shooting" is a rather advanced concept for a 2-year old girl, and that "death" or "number of lives" can be a hard thing to teach a kid that age.

    The real question is not "when are kids old enough to play videogames" but rather: "when are they old enough to become a target group" in the videogame industry,

    Today's games are ill suited for very small kids - not because games in general are bad for kids - but simply because the lack of demand for such videogames has resulted in the absolute absence of suitable games for kids of that age!

    - Jesper

    (And BTW: suggestions on good games for a 2½ year old girl are welcome...)

  • I've never understood why people ask the question "when is my child mature enough for ?"

    Surely the maturity to understand something comes with exposure to it? Why not expose your kids to things early on, and with parental help and explanation, make sure they understand?

    Why is it that people don't deem their children 'mature enough' to start understanding sex until they're in their early teens/tweens? I heard about sex and knew exactly what it was, along with all the crude humor and slang, long before th
  • by eric76 (679787)
    If they are old enough to eat at McDonald's, they are old enough to play video games.

    But parents should not permit their children to eat at McDonald's until they are at least 21.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:02PM (#22171096)
    My kid is going to be the next "Tiger Woods" of the gaming world. He's going win hundreds of thousands of dollars before hes ten years old.
  • by Mechagodzilla (94503) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:09PM (#22171190)
    Being the father of a 5yo and 3yo, I admit they have started playing games. This includes PC games like Reader Rabbit and Dora. I have personally witnessed the increase in problem solving ability, basic math and reading, and a little strategy.

    However, we do limit them. The most I have let one play is 60 minutes non-stop. Daddy does have to be mean and turn it off sometimes, even to the chorus of tears. Computer time is probably the first privilege they lose when they are disciplined.

    They play on them in school. I have no issue with them understanding a mouse click or keyboard. Think of yourself learning how to use a computer. Now think of your parents learning the same thing. You probably had an advantage because you started when you were younger. I feel that if they are comfortable with technology now, they will be more able to assimilate it as they grow up.

    I also let them play on the Wii. They are actually quite good at some games. The 5yo has a +170 average on bowling and can also post a decent golf score. I believe it helps their gross and fine motor skills, as well as get some exercise. Anyone who has boxed a few rounds knows what I am talking about.

    Like everything in life, the key is moderation...
  • by His name cannot be s (16831) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:15PM (#22171288) Journal
    Hey, if people have problems with letting their kids play video games at a young age, go ahead stop them.

    Me, I'm of another camp.

    My wife and I started my oldest daughter on the computer when she was 18 months. Loaded up reader rabbit--which is a pretty good starter, where she could start by just banging the keyboard and see stuff happen.

    By three, she had mastered drag & drop, thanks to Dora the Explorer and some other games.

    At four she saw a game in the store (Zoo Tycoon) and liked the animals, and asked if she could play that. I told her it was probably a tad hard for her, but she insisted she could learn. I bought it and installed it. I helped her get it started, but told her she had to figure it out if she wanted to play. At first she had problems getting the cages built right, and the lions would get out and start going after the patrons... she FREAKED out...of course, after I calmed her down, and gave her a couple hints, she started to get it. She then needed to learn what environment for each animal... She was just learning to read small words at the time, and so I showed her the online help, and told her to keep sounding out the words.

    Well, a couple weeks later, she's telling my wife and I all about lions, and how they prefer the Savannah grass, and other things they like. My wife didn't know how she learned it, and when we asked my daughter, she told me she read it in the game. Turns out that she taught herself to read pretty well in a matter of a few weeks.

    Now, she's almost six, plays alot of games (including Oblivion, Viva Pinata, Sim City and others), and can read *REALLY* well, along with fantastic math and science comprehension. She also paints and plays sports.

    But, hey, if you are afraid that your kids will suffer from too much video games... go ahead, my kids will dominate in the future. :P

    A
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by FurryFeet (562847)

      But, hey, if you are afraid that your kids will suffer from too much video games... go ahead, my kids will dominate in the future. :P

      Hey, my 4-year old is already playing GTA4. He's gonna kick your girl's ass and steal her car in the future. ;-)
  • Two years old (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:33PM (#22171568)
    My son's been playing video games since he was 2. (He's 4 now.) When he first started, he didn't quite grasp how to move the mouse to get the pointer to do what he wanted. He quickly picked it up though and became quite the computer whiz. He even figured out how to launch his game from the Start Menu, which is quite impressive since he doesn't even read yet! (That we know of... maybe he's just playing dumb to lull mommy and daddy into a false sense of security. ;-) )

    While visiting a zoo one day, they had a Fisher Price exhibit and he tried out the SmartCycle. The lady there was amazed that he picked up on all of the controls almost instantly. (He seems to have inherited his daddy's knack for computers.) In December, he got the SmartCycle as a present and loves pedaling, choosing which games to play, and playing all of the games that we've bought him. He doesn't need anyone to show him how something works. He just does it once or twice and figures it out.

    Sure, the video games he's playing are educational in nature and not Super Mario Brothers-type games (much less Grand Theft Auto-type games), but I think introducing computers to toddlers is important. Just make sure to balance their activities out.
  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @03:48PM (#22171772) Homepage Journal
    I've let my kid play videogames with me, or watch me play since he was three. He's now five. But as with TV, we restrict it quite a bit. He should be spending most of his time coloring, constructing, reading, etc.

    I personally think that games are better than TV, but that both are bad if that's all the kid ever does. Five ours sitting in front of the tube is bad, regardless of whether the kid has a controller in his hands.

    The other rule is that he plays games with us, not alone. (Well, me...my wife doesn't game.) Videogames aren't there to babysit the kid. They're a father-son bonding experience.
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:15AM (#22178942) Homepage
    So if the parents play video games (probably more likely than not these days), the kids will at least "play" that they play video games starting when they are 1 to 2 years old. About one year later, they will be able to actually play the games. I don't see any reason to prevent them from playing real video games at that point.

    If the parents doesn't play video games, the kids won't be interested for a couple of years more, when they get playmates who play video games. I don't see any reason to introduce them to games before that, nor to stop them when they ask for it.

    For pre-schoolers, you choose the games. For primary schoolers, they probably want to choose the games, but you should play the games as well. After that, general advice is more harmful than helpful. It depends too much on you and the kid.

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