What should parents know to make good game choices for their children?

Game on! What games should kids play?

Kids love video games – they're exciting, fun and engrossing. While games can promote learning and growth, too much video gaming – or playing inappropriate games – can lead to negative consequences. What should parents know to make good game choices for their children?

Ola Gardner, a faculty member in Game Art & Design at The Art Institute of Atlanta, offers these tips when selecting games for kids:

* Become familiar with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. These ratings are designed to help potential players understand the game's content and offer guidance on which games are appropriate for different ages.

* Explore www.familyfriendlyvideogames.com. This site provides a report card on games, with detailed descriptions of game content, technical performance and kid friendliness.

* Understand the types of games on the market: edutainment (educational games focusing on teaching the player), role playing games (that offer deep story and character development), action games (that train and enhance hand-eye coordination), simulation games (building vehicles such as planes or cars) and strategy games.

* Use online reviews, ask other parents, ask the staff at your local store – and play games with your kids.

It's also important for parents to understand the different game platforms. "Generally Nintendo (Wii and the portable 3DS system as well) is a very kid-friendly platform to purchase for younger children. The Sony PlayStation3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 have kid-friendly games to play as well, though parents need to exercise caution as some of the games released are for adults only," says Nick Viola, a Game Art & Design faculty member at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. "The Wii and the Xbox 360 Kinect encourage families to play together and get the players off the sofa."

Whatever the game and whatever the platform, video games for kids – like those for any age – need to be engaging. "The interactivity of these games seems to be the crucial factor that engages kids of all ages. Exciting visuals and action are also key," says David March, a Media Arts & Animation faculty member at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.

And what children's video games do these experts like best? "My favorite kids' games are the Ratchet and Clank series and the Super Mario franchise," says Gardner. Super Mario Brothers is a favorite of Viola's as well. "Its bright bold colors, simplistic playing mechanics and iconic sound effects will always draw my attention," he says. For March, favorites include "the side-scrollers like Prince of Persia – things with lots of lush graphics. And I'm a total sucker for almost any game involving flying an aircraft."

Bottom line? Video games are here to stay. And when appropriately used, they can provide an opportunity for families to play together as well as for kids to learn and grow.

To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.