Should I Let My Child Play Online Games?

Many parents have been asking themselves the question: should I let my child play online games? Many believe that the gaming community is responsible for violence displayed by teenagers. So how do online games, also known as MMORPGs or Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games, fit into the equation?

Online gaming is increasing in popularity due to the explosive growth of the internet. Popular online games include: World of Warcraft (WoW), EverQuest (EQ), RuneScape, Guild Wars (GW), Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online. What is the draw to these games? What can children learn from playing these types of games? The mind of a parent is usually swarming with these types of questions when the subject of online games is brought up.

I play a few online games and have been for many years. I lived on the computer when I was growing up and still do. Instead of grounding me or restriction, I used to get my mouse and keyboard taken away. The current generation is just as comfortable around computers as I am. The PC has become a common household item.

Online games are more like well-developed communities: there is a bustling economy and plenty of other players to socialize with. So what are the risks?

Well there is the fear that video games lead to violent behavior in adolescence and a parent must worry about laziness and video game addiction. Not to mention the cost, some MMORPG cost upwards of $15 per month.

On the other hand there are a lot of great things a child can learn from playing online games. I logged into my favorite online game, Guild Wars, and asked a few of my younger, in-game friends what they learned from the game. One 15 year old said, “Good sportsmanship and cooperation”, a great answer and something that is absolutely reinforced with online games. Another gamer, 12, said, “It teaches them to be irresponsible adults.” That is quite a statement for a 12-year-old so I asked him a few more questions about his playing habits. He said he usually plays for 1-2 hours a day and his parents limit the amount of them he can spend online.

Deciding whether or not your child should be allowed to play an online game can be a difficult decision but this is what you can do to make sure you make the right decision. Do thorough research on the game. Look at forums and game wiki’s to find out what the game is about. Try the game out for yourself. Most online games offer a free trial. Take advantage of the free trial when you can and see what the game is all about, what kind of people play it, how much violence there is, etc. Talk to others who play the game and see what they think.

As an adult, I think it is fine for children to play online games but only in moderation. I asked another teenage gamer how many hours he spends per day playing and he said about 5-6. I think play should be limited to just a couple of hours a night and only after homework, chores and other responsibilities are taken care of. Online games should be dealt with the same way as you would deal with the television or telephone.


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