Hello! My name is Alexander Kruse and I’m an Ambassador for Microsoft’s Get Game Smart program, which helps parents and kids work together to create rules around video gaming and other kinds of electronics in your home. As a 15 year old living in today’s technological world, I know the importance of balancing my activities on a daily basis. I understand that it’s tough for parents to know how to limit their child’s use of electronics, but here are a few simple tips my parents and I use that you can keep in mind:
Education Comes Before Play Time
The biggest rule my family and I use is “education comes before play time.” Even though we love to play video games, use the computer, visit friends’ houses and play sports, school should always be a priority because it’s the key to your future success. If I played video games all night after school, I wouldn’t have good grades. In-game achievements are fun – but it’s more important to work hard in real life because those achievements will lead to bigger and better things.
The Balancing Act
This is the time to sit down with your kids and talk to them about the importance of balance. I tend to use my day like this: I go to school; come home and do homework; go to sports practice; and then I have my free time. I don’t always use my free time for video games, but sometimes like to play a board game with the family – it’s nice to switch things up. A good rule is that for every 45 minutes of “screen time” (video games, computer, iPod, etc.) kids should exercise or be active for one hour. This is a great way to have a healthier and well-rounded lifestyle.
One more important tip is to encourage kids to set goals. Kids my age should be planning goals for the bright futures ahead of them. They have all the capabilities and strengths to excel in life and do well. For example, I am an Eagle Scout. I became one at the age of 14 and I am still involved heavily with scouting. It is very rare to make Eagle Scout at the age of 14, let alone just Eagle Scout, but I did so because I had a goal and I saw it through to the finish. Every kid should plan goals for the future, whether it’s a college they want to get into or a certain job they want to have, it doesn’t matter as long as they have a goal in mind to keep them motivated.
Many parents have a lack of knowledge when it comes to the ESRB video game ratings. This is a helpful guideline to use when your child wants you to buy them a video game. On the front and back of every video game there will be one of these letters: EC, E, E10+, T, M, or AO. There’s more information on the ESRB Web site, but here’s the general age range for each category:
- Early Childhood (EC): May be appropriate for ages 3 and older
- Everyone (E): May be appropriate for ages 6 and older
- Everyone 10+ (E10+): May be appropriate for ages 10 and older
- Teen (T): May be appropriate for ages 13 or older
- Mature (M): May be appropriate for ages 17 and older
- Adults Only (AO): May be appropriate for ages 18 and older
A lot of kids argue with the age requirement for the “M” rated category, so it’s important to talk to your kids about which games are ok-to-play and do some research about the game before you buy.
If you ever have any questions for me or the other Get Game Smart Ambassadors, you can submit a question to the “Ask an Expert” section of ww.GetGameSmart.com. Have fun with your kids and remember, “Education”, “Balance”, and “Goals” are the most important tips for having a more active and healthy lifestyle.