A lot of parents ask me about video games. Really, there is no right and wrong when it comes to video games in general. However, there are some guidelines you should enforce, and some particulars about the games you should know.
First of all, be aware of the ESRB rating system (below) for console type (WII, X-Box, Playstation, DS) video games. While the system is not perfect, I have found it to be a pretty good guide when to determine the appropriateness for a particular age.
Second, internet games are a different issue altogether. Many of the free online games (Like Cubefield) are pretty fun and, most importantly — free. However, be aware that these games make money from advertising, and many link to other game sites with content that is NOT appropriate. Be sure if your son is playing online games, he does not click the links to other sites. As with all other internet useage, you need to have clear guidlines in place, and enforce them consistently. For my boys, I allow no more than 30 minutes on a school night and 1 hour a day on weekends.
ESRB Rating Symbols (http://www.esrb.org)
Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game’s release.)