Last year, the computer and video game industry had $10.5 billion in revenue. Since the days of Pac Man and Tetris, the booming industry has seen sales and profits rise consistently as it continuously reinvents itself. This hobby has created extreme loyalty, which can sometimes be viewed as addictive and dangerous. In 2010, the average gamer spent eight hours a week playing video games, and 25 percent of those gamers are under the age of 18.

We have all seen the news stories about video games making kids overweight and increasing crime rates in teens. But with 67 percent of U.S. households having a gaming console, are there actions parents can take in order to keep kids safe and healthy?

The most significant thing for parents to keep in mind when allowing their kids to play video games is to remember they are in control. Here’s a short list of ideas to help you keep gaming under control.

  • Monitor their playing time either by how much time a week, or as a reward for doing homework, helping out around the house or even exercising.
  •  Use the parental controls. With the new gaming technology, most consoles and games come with parental controls, so make life easier by using them. With the new technology, your kids can go online to play and talk with complete strangers. Be aware of those games and limit what their kids can do.
  • Keep a close eye on the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating. These ratings typically show up in the commercials as well as placed on the boxes. There are numerous ratings and they run the gamut from EC for Early Childhood to A for Adults Only. Parents should purchase games that are appropriate for their children, instead of just buying what is popular.
  •  Play video games with your kids so you are in the know about what they are being entertained by.
  • Discuss your household video game rules with friend’s parents so no toes are stepped on and consistency is maintained.

Parents should keep in mind it is not always a negative thing for their kids to play video games. Some available games promote hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and the mind’s ability to process information.

If you see a sudden change in behavior, grades or socialization habits, the negative effects of gaming may be affecting your child. When in doubt, go with games that are known and promoted for their educational benefits. Giving a game that is entertaining as well as beneficial to your child’s mind is a win-win for all. And lastly, do not let the gaming world become their world.