Video game moderation needed at all agesIt was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon for a party. Blue sky, a few clouds here and there and a welcoming 75 degrees. But where were all the adults? In front of a TV playing video games without a care in the world.

Teenagers get the bad reputation of being addicted or attached to their video game systems and usually it's a valid argument. When 3 p.m. rolls around and school's out, there's no other place they'd rather be than in front of a flashing screen killing zombies, racing cars or whatever else those fantasy games offer these days.

But the older generations are just as much to blame. A new survey from the Consumer Electronics Association finds that roughly one-third of adult "gamers" spend 10 or more hours per week playing console or PC-based games. Does that sound about right?

In actuality, the grown-ups are way ahead of the youngin's: only 11 percent of teens spend an equivalent amount of time on video games. The study did find adults aren't as keen on portable gaming as teens: only 25 percent of adult gamers who own a portable gaming device reported having used it in the last six months, compared to 77 percent of teens.

This is where someone needs to step in with some much-needed sense. Teens shouldn't make these systems part of their daily routines, which is normally the case. They rely on Nintendo Wii, XBox or Playstation and whatever else will come out tomorrow or the next day to be the only source of entertainment and sometimes even an education.

Games will hold precedence over studying for a test, working on a project or completing a simple homework assignment. And for the bigger gamers out there, the controls are in their hands before the car keys are even thrown on the counter. Things get even worse if there are kids in the house and dad (or mom) can't tear themselves away from Grand Theft Auto or Madden All-Star Football. If parents become addicted, there's no sense in setting a schedule for the younger ones.

Please understand I'm not denouncing the fun altogether. Visually speaking, video games of 2007 are amazing in quality and realistic feel. If you look quickly at any sports game, it's indistinguishable from the real thing.

And I grew up in the age of Atari and the original Nintendo. We had Frogger, Pac-Man, Super Mario and Duck Hunt. Hours felt like seconds when you were winning and if you were losing, then it was all the more reason to keep playing.

These days if parents are allowed (or even asked) to join in on the fun, it can only benefit the relationship with children. The CSA gives four very good reasons why mom and dad might be competing against their kids on the screen: Because they're asked to play (79 percent); it's fun for the entire family (75 percent); it's a good opportunity to socialize with the child (71 percent); it's a good chance to monitor game content (69 percent).

The last one is the best way for any concerned parent to ensure the game is actually entertaining and not one that includes killing cops or soliciting prostitutes. It's the very essence of quality parenting.

But regarding the hours played, there needs to be limits - for adults and teens. On that Saturday afternoon, there was no reason for older folks to be crowded around a TV in a living room. Same thing goes for this summer.

Rainy days are best for video games. bad thing but there needs to be moderation. Teens should keep the "entertainment" to a minimum and then get outside. Breathe in the air and get some exercise. That's what the summer vacation is all about.

Chris Barnes is the former editor of The Free Press and The Saucon News. His e-mail address is

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