Kids and Video Games: It’s All about Moderation, Quality, and Safety

There’s a lot of debate these days about kids and screen time. Since eliminating screen time altogether isn’t an option, it all comes down to three words: moderation, quality, and safety. Moderation, we’ll leave up to you. But here are three high-quality games and two tools that will help you ensure that your kids have the safest on-line experience possible.


Birthdays the Beginning

birthdays the beginningThis wonderful game is the brainchild of Yasuhiro Wada, creator of Harvest Moon, and to grasp what it’s like, imagine a combination of Minecraft, Sims, and evolution. There are two modes: Build and Macro. In Build mode, players create a world, with mountains, trees, valleys, statues, and so on. In Macro, you’re now in charge of time, temperature, climate, and life itself (there are more than 300 life forms, including plants, fuzzy mammals, and plenty of dinosaurs). As you move back and forth between the modes, you have a chance to see the intricate and delicate ways that the environment and everything in it affect each other. Too hot or too cold, your creatures could go extinct. Too many critters? They might run out of food. Available for PlayStation 4 and PC.

RPG Maker FES (NIS America)

RPG makerKids (and plenty of adults) love role-playing games (RPG), and this RPG maker is a remarkably simple tool that lets players of all ages turn their wildest dreams into epic, fully playable adventures. You start by creating a location, using bricks, grass, water, and so on. Next, select characters and avatars. But the real fun starts when you begin adding interactivity and plot. You can set a mind-blowing variety of elements, including features that add or subtract health and gold, decision trees, multiple levels, dialog exchanges between characters, and so much more. This is a fantastic way for kids to develop storytelling, logic, writing, and literacy skills along with game design. Ages 10+. For the Nintendo 3DS.


Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon

Pokémon. ultra sun and moonjpgThe Pokémon franchise has been around for more than 20 years and they still manage to come up with new twists to keep us fascinated and engaged. Pokémon Sun and Moon came out late last year and were huge hits. The Ultra games are due out later this year and we’re betting that they’ll be even bigger. There are new Pokémon to collect (and you can store up to 3,000 of them in your Pokémon Bank), a new region (called Alola, which has four islands, each with a Pokémon guardian), and, of course, plenty of new beasts. For the Nintendo 3DS in nine languages.


Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)

ESRB ratingsIn the same way that movie ratings help parents screen for age-appropriateness, ESRB’s age- and content ratings are an excellent resource for helping parents navigate the real and virtual game aisles, including Google Play, Microsoft’s Xbox Live store, Nintendo eShop, the PlayStation Store, and the Oculus VR Store. And because many games are intended to play with others, ESRB also details when a game includes interactive elements, such as whether players interact with each other or have to share their location, or if the game includes in-app purchases.


Social Judo

social judoCreated by two dads (a brain surgeon and a computer scientist), Social Judo is designed to help parents monitor activity on smartphones and other devices to keep their kids safe from sexting, bullying, and many of the other dangers of cyberspace. You can monitor calls, text messaging, email, social media, photos, device usage while driving, and a lot more. You can also check GPS and block apps. The goal is to make good parents smart—and we think they’ve found a way to do exactly that. Pricing varies.

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