How to pick a good phone game for your child

find a good phone game for your childAfter yesterday’s post where I confessed to being a virtual chicken killer, I thought I’d weigh in on my theory for how to pick a good phone game for your child.

I spent some time thinking about Smurfs, Chickens, and Pavlov.

(pavlov and his dogs are famous.  slot machines and many video games use what pavlov and his salivating dogs learned.  it’s how they turn your kids into salivating video game junkies. honest.)

I figure since I’m an avid video game player myself, I have a unique perspective on the subject.  We own both iOS and Android devices, and this applies easily to both.

We also own more than one console gaming system.  Those are great, but they don’t fit in my purse.

How to pick a good phone game for your kids.

game selection short version

The short version.

Avoid the chicken farms and the gems.

There are games (like the chicken farm) where the game keeps changing even when your child isn’t playing.  That’s pushes their “I need to play video games nooooowwwwwww” button over and over and over.  It also puts their virtual chickens (or whatever) at risk.  Your child ends up stressed out over their chickens and you end up looking like the big bad chicken killer.

There are games that continually urge your child to buy more gems or berries or powerups.   All those cost money.  That pushes their whining button really hard.  Run.


How to pick a good phone game for your kids.

The longer version.

  1.  Look at the rating.  The video game rating system is there for a reason.  It’s called ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board.  My kids know what ratings are appropriate for them.  (this works well at the video store for console games too.)  

  2.  Look at the rating.  If the majority of people are giving the game one and two star ratings, move on.  My kids understand if I tell them it’s a stinky game that they will be disappointed, but it did take a few free “bad” games to prove my point.

  3.  Does this free game cost money?  It’s called FREEMIUM.  They give the game away for free and then charge a premium for gems or berries or powerups of some kind.  The first few levels of the game are easy, but at some point you can’t proceed unless you spend real money.  RUN.  AWAY.  NOW.

  4.  Does this game happen in real time?  If time passses when the game is not being played (like the chicken farm) it makes it hard to keep your kids away from the game.  RUN. AWAY. NOW.  (you may not be able to figure this out without downloading the game.)

  5.  Internet Requirements.  Some games work only when they have access to the internet.  Some games work anywhere.  Your phone may have internet access (almost) anywhere, but it’s a good bet that any secondary devices (iPod touch, Kindle, 1st generation iPad) don’t have their own WiFi account.  As a general rule:  games that encourage gem purchasing or that rely heavily on interacting with other players also require wifi.  So do the ones that advertise or encourage players to download yet more games.  Rejecting games that require WiFi just makes life easier as a mom.

If it works in airplane mode, it doesn’t need WiFi.

Unfortunately, the only way I know to test out those last two is to actually download the game and try it myself.  When I do that, I can screen some additional criteria.

  1.  Does the game make noises I find annoying?  I’ve learned the hard way.  Games that make excessive body noises get on my nerves.  So does the one with the talking cat. I don’t need that in the backseat while I’m driving.

  2.  What does my mom-gut say?   If my instinct says the game is too violent, too boring, or too hard then I pass.  If I spot major problems (like the Geography game that didn’t include Hawaii as one of the 50 states) then I pass.  The bottom line is that I have to actually PLAY a game to know how it will work for my kids.

After I’ve screen for all of that, I can generally find a game I’m happy for my kids to play.

picking a phone game

 The Bottom Line.

When I download a game at the request of my children and don’t play it first, I regret it about half the time.

When I actively look for new content without them and pre-screen, they get better games.

Better = games they love and games I’m ok with them playing.

If you absolutely can’t stand video games, find someone you trust.  Ask them to use their mom-gut (or dad-gut) to help you wade through this.  Check some review sites that you trust.

But whatever you do, don’t be a big bad chicken killer.

 What criteria do you use to pick games for your kids?  Under what conditions will you hand them YOUR phone?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Houston Mom Blogger Susan Baker has a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood. She has two elementary school boys, one engineering husband, and one cat. She has a strange fascination for eggs, PINK, socks, and books.  She spends far too much time on Social Media and at Target. She is crazy in love with her family.  She serves an amazing God.   She lives an ordinary life filled with wonder. [/author_info] [/author]
Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Wow, Susan. I’m impressed. That was a great article.

    My granddaughter, Ivy, who’s 3-1/2, likes the iPhone and is starting to play a few games. I could see myself giving her the phone without checking out the game first (as long as it was age appropriate). So I’m glad you said that about usually regretting it when you don’t check it out first. I’m going to make that a policy for me.
    Patty recently posted..Apple CrispMy Profile

    • Patty, if you give her your phone, there’s some settings you might want to check/change. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s an article that looks to cover the basics really well.

      Checking out content is a good policy for anything, not just games. Particularly when mine were little, I’d always record a few episodes of a new cartoon show and pre-screen before agreeing the kids could watch it. That let me screen out whiny or disrespectful cartoon kids, and also let me check to make sure the show didn’t have an underlying message I didn’t want the kids to be exposed to. As they’ve gotten older, we screen new shows together and they help make the call. Focus on the Family has “plugged in” that helps in screening a lot of stuff quickly.

  2. Before our grand children will have access to any of the phone games I certainly would want to check the suitability of the game for them.
    Particularly as they will probably be playing the games constantly if they like them.
    I liked your point about checking the rating, that is very important.

  3. Yes. We should allow only simple type of games for kids. Because We are’t getting that Kids learning anything quickly. Thanks for all ideas.

  4. That’s 100% right, this is the way of not overload of a child in his childhood so use the simplest to tuff game as forword movement. that’s a right way.

  5. Most of kids loves to play games in their childhood. We should pick the right video or phone game for our kids that they loves and play with interest. Nowadays, nintendo games are becoming very popular in kids for playing.

  6. I love to play android action and adventurer game like Candy Crush Saga and Iron Man. Simple and easy steps and moves of games are very good for children.

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