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My 8-year old son, like many boys his age, is obsessed with video games. We try to have a rule at our house where he's allowed to play certain games that are appropriate to his age, for only a specific period. During the week, if he's done his homework and has behaved well in school, then he's allowed 30 minutes. During the week-end, it's 2 hours/day.

This has been working well for us (even if he complains at times). However, he recently made a new friend who's also into video games, but the rules at his house are obviously very different. There doesn't seem to be any limit of "screen" time, and he's also allowed to play games with a rating of M (!). We think this is unacceptable and have told the boy's parents that our son is not allowed to play certain games at their house. They are quite fine with that, but somehow our son still gets exposed to games that we don't agree with (either because the friend talks about them at school, or will show the games while his parents are not watching, or the parents think that this is a mild game, and we disagree).

So there has been a lot of fighting in our house about us being unfair, about how these games are fine and we don't understand, etc., etc. The problem is that this kid's parents are very nice people, we like them, and we really like the little boy, so we don't want to end the friendship. In general they have values that are very similar to ours; this is the only area where we disagree.

And thus my question: How can I explain to my son that we disagree with these rules without giving him the impression that we think his friend's parents are bad?

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Is he upset because his friend has a different set of rules, or is he upset because he's not allowed to play these video games?

At this age, your son is able to understand that different households have different rules. I would approach it from the standpoint of, "We love Johnny and we love Johnny's parents, but we have different rules in this house than Johnny has at his house." End of story. Then, invite Johnny and his parents over for dinner so that your son can see that two households don't have to be identical to be friendly with each other. He doesn't have to like the fact that the rules at your house aren't the same as the rules at Johnny's house.

If you haven't all ready done so, it might be a good time to sit down with him and explain to him exactly what it is about these games that you find so inappropriate. But the issue is really a two-fold one: he doesn't like your rules, and he doesn't really understand why he can't play these particular games. If you feel like the games undermine your particular value system, then you can tell him exactly why. It will also give you the opportunity to reinforce that you don't believe that Johnny's parents are bad because they let Johnny play these games.

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It's a combination of both. He's now being exposed to new games that he didn't know about, so he wants to play them, but he's mad that he's not allowed to and that his friend can play with them. I like the idea of explaining exactly why we disagree with these games. I don't think we have been very specific, so that might help him understand more. Thanks! –  Nathalie Laroche Feb 19 '13 at 12:38
    
I hope it works or at least minimizes the arguing. I mean, he's still not going to like it. And maybe it is time to negotiate playing some of the more "mature" games. I had a friend whose parents wouldn't allow her to listen to any albums until they listened to and approved them first. You could negotiate a similar system. If he wants to play a game, you rent it (or borrow it from Johnny) first, pre-view it, and if you decide that it's ok (or less-bad) then you can discuss his purchasing or playing it. Sounds like some of it is just him wanting to save-face in front of his friend. –  Meg Coates Feb 20 '13 at 23:23
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At 8 I was playing Doom - and I don't believe ratings even existed. Anecdotal "I turned out fine" aside, have you considered an alternative to prohibition? Most video games have some kind of narrative, even if it's not winning any awards, and often the player is put in positions to make difficult decisions. This isn't unlike real life at all - why not use it as a vehicle for discourse? The best way to keep your child from playing these games is to make him find them uninteresting. The best way to do that is to find ones that are more interesting. The rating system leaves a lot to be desired. –  Doug Feb 27 '13 at 15:40
    
I do agree with the rating system does leave something to be desired in the same way that the movie rating system can only be a set of guidelines. Even though a movie may be rated PG doesn't mean that it's appropriate for every kid based on the maturity of that kid. –  Meg Coates Mar 3 '13 at 23:39
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As an alternative to pre-viewing the game with the actual thing, most games have been played be people and posted on youtube. Just searching youtube for the games name should give you a few results about it, if you watch a few videos listed as 'Lets Play' you should be able to get the feel of the game and how the rating is has is present in the game –  Gilsham Jun 9 at 4:04

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