Life Advice



Ask Amy: ‘Best of’ column addresses video gaming

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Readers: Every year I step away from my column briefly to work on other creative projects. (Anyone interested in my personal essays and photographs can subscribe to my free newsletter:

I’ll be back next week. Today’s “Best of” topic from 10 years ago concerns video gaming.

Dear Amy: My husband and my father are both video gamers.

A new version of their favorite game just came out, and I became aware that it is rated M-Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The two men believe it is perfectly acceptable for our six- and four-year-old boys to watch and play this game.

I equate an M rating as equivalent to watching an R-rated movie and am insistent that the boys cannot watch or play this game.

They are arguing that the kids have played previous versions, also rated M (unbeknownst to me), therefore no harm is being done.

I am being accused of overreacting and being controlling.

The kids are also now angry at me for pulling the plug.

Am I overreacting? Should I allow “limited” playing?

– Unplugged Mom

Dear Unplugged: Did your husband and your father start their recreational lives as very young children playing violent video games intended for adults?

I’m going to guess not. I presume that when they were children these older men exercised their imaginations and bodies the old-fashioned way — out in the backyard, on the ball field, or down the block in the neighborhood.

Don’t they want the same for these kids?

I completely agree with you. Your children are way too young to play (or watch others play) these games.

It would be great if your kids had a dad and granddad who cared enough about them to get off the couch and take them outside to engage in play that is truly interactive. The number of letters I receive from parents of teens and young adults (mostly male, frankly), anguished over the hours, money and effort spent on video gaming would persuade any parent to delay this activity — or at least offer younger children something in the realm of age-appropriate.

These adults, who are basically co-opting the kiddies in order to do battle with you, are also providing an example of adolescent gamesmanship.

The kids should be left entirely out of this while the adults hash things out.

For more information on the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s rating system (including very helpful tips on how families can discuss this important issue), check The site includes information on how to install parental controls on various branded gaming systems.

It sounds as if you could use some “grandparental” controls, too. – June 2012

Dear Amy: My husband and I are both gamers.

We have always had a rule that the kids may not watch or play M-rated games.


We felt that if we let them break this rule, it sets a precedent to break others, such as going to R-rated movies and drinking before age 21.

We limit our time playing these games, and either wait until after they are asleep, or close the door to the room.

The children’s computer is in another part of the house in a high-traffic zone to help keep them away from sites they should avoid.

Since breaking the rules means loss of computer privileges, they are motivated to behave.

Our kids are now teenagers and have been using the computer since they were three years old.

The children have complained that we are keeping them out of the social loop, but we have stuck to our guns, and they have always found alternate games to play.

We have even found several games out there that the whole family finds enjoyable to play.

– Gamer Mom

Dear Gamer: You have the fortitude to say “no” to something and to stick with it. Good for you! – June 2012

Dear Amy: Responding to the letter from “Unplugged Mom,” who was worried about her young children playing M-rated video games: In my household, we say those games are rated “I,” not “M.”

I think you can guess why!

– Also a Gamer

Dear Gamer: Actually, I can’t figure out your home rating system. But the most important thing is that the adults in your household make appropriate choices, and that you are consistent in your enforcement.

Dear Amy: Regarding “gaming addiction,” my mom seems addicted to playing games on her phone.

I don’t know how to get her attention!

– Upset Kid

Dear Upset: Ask her to agree to limits, post them on the fridge, and remind her when she strays.


(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2022 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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