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Video-games offer all kinds of benefits and invite players to experience a variety  of creative worlds and stories. To get the most out of games  families should ensure they are engaging with then in safe and sensible ways.

Playing Together

While we all understand what books and films are, because video-games are a new media they can divide the family into gamers and non-gamers. It's important to change this if children and parents are going to get the most out of the games they play.

For parents this means taking an interest in what the family is playing. A little research will soon show that the world of Minecraft, FIFA or other games aren't as confusing as they first appear. It can help to know where to start online. There are a range of family friendly video-game communities that offer first hand help and guides:

The best way to find out about the video-games your family is playing is to play them together. May games have a co-operative mode where one player can help the other. Where games are more complex parents can of course practice in the evenings when the children are asleep and then impressive them at the weekend.

The final piece of advice here is to play video-games in a family room rather than a bedroom or study. This not only removes the need to police the content but also encourages conversation and collaboration. It's a common misconception that children would prefer to play on their own but families we talk to tell us that children enjoy games all the more when the whole family is taking an interest.

Playing Healthy

Playing games is sometimes perceived as an unhealthy activity, however provided you take regular breaks and combine it with a varied and active lifestyle this isn't the case.

Not only do games exercise your grey matter, strategic thinking and teamwork, but motion gaming incentivizes movement and getting up on your feet. Games that use Wii Remote, PlayStation Move or the Kinect camera controller a played by actively moving your body.

Other games can get players enthused about different sports, or introduce light healthy living information into the experience. Some titles are specifically aimed at fitness and tracking both physical and mental well being.

Taking regular breaks is recommended, every 45-60 minutes as a rule of thumb. This not only gives your eyes and body a change of vision and posture but it can also make the games more enjoyable. Returning to a particular challenge after a short break can make all the difference to solving it.

We provide information around staying healthy while playing video-games and debunk the myths, helping to give you a clearer picture of playing games as part of an active and healthy lifestyle.

Playing Savvy

Unlike other media that are hard to track and control in the home, video-games consoles offer a variety of ways to review, monitor and control consumption in the family. These work best as tools to support conversations and agreement between children and parents about how and when to play.

Parental controls enable families to password protect particular functions and interactions on the video-game hardware. They also enable you to specific which PEGI rated games can be played on the system without a password.

On tablets and smartphone devices it is important to setup a password on purchasing options and to ensure that this is required for every transaction. Free to play games on these devices offer great value and a low cost way to try before you buy. They do, however, often offer in app purchases for additional content and items that you should be aware of before handing a device to a child.

Some systems offer a Family Timer feature that automatically pauses game-play when an allotted amount of time has elapsed for the day. A password is required before play can continue. This offers another opportunity for families to decide together how long is appropriate and avoids parents being the "bad guy" coming in and turning off the fun.

Some systems have an Activity log, keep a record of which games have been played. This not only signals to which titles have offered best value for money but also the time of day they were played and the frequency. This is another good tool to review family gaming habits and agree good boundaries together.

Finally, taking note of the PEGI age ratings information ensures not only you know what to watch out for in the games you are playing but also offers a brief overview of the game's content in general. You can view the general PEGI rating and access further consumer information on the GRA's PEGI Additional Information website.

Next post: All About The Benefits of Video-Games

Avatar for Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.