There’s been a lot of uproar from a lot of parents concerning the release of the video game Grand Theft Auto. And for the folks who are reading this column who object to sexism and violence prima facie, I’m ok with that. I respect taking a blanket stand on anything that displays sexism or racism or violence. So, you folks, you are free to go.
However, the rest of you who understand that violent video games have an effect on children and, therefore, believe that the only alternative is that the games in question should be banned, allow me my say: I disagree.
Video games are not only classified in the same way as motion pictures, they are also examined extensively on the internet. So it’s pretty easy to make an informed decision as to which games you’ll allow your kid to play. If a game is clearly labeled “M” for “Mature,” it seems that a rational parent would take that as a big hint when they are out shopping for their kids’ games. And if the classification labeling on games seems fuzzy, the internet will most assuredly provide additional info for you to study.
I have read the same studies and APA articles that have undoubtedly befell your eyes. And I get it, kids who play violent video games become more aggressive. But games like Grand Theft Auto are specifically made for adults, just like the novels of Phillip Roth and Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk and Erica Jong. We wouldn’t call for their novels to be banned, ’cause, y’know, the Constitution and all. But video games seem to be treated differently, as kids aren’t falling over themselves trying to get their mitts on Portnoy’s Complaint.
So, where does this leave us? My opinion: Active Parenting.
I have two kids, a 12 (going on 40) year-old girl and a 16 year-old boy. While my daughter’s taste in video games doesn’t extend much beyond the subject of pet-care or puzzles, my son enjoys a variety of games on a variety of platforms. His favorites include driving games, but nothing more violent than that.
Except World Of Warcraft.
I played Dungeons And Dragons when I was an adolescent, as well as a post-adolescent. When I was hipped to WoW, I fell in love with it, fell hard. So it seemed reasonable that my son would take an interest. And when I considered all the ramifications, I felt that our parenting would, in the end, leave more of an impression on him than the violence he would encounter within the online game. So I let him give it a try and he, too, fell hard.
And yet he is still an intensely non-violent person, both in thought and in deed. The other day, during a soccer match, a player on the other team took a solid hit. Without blinking, my son ran to the hurt kid and helped him, checking him to make sure he was ok, empathizing with him over the pain of injury. My kid understands that there is a Grand Canyon of a difference between killing a monster in a video game and caring for a fellow human in real life.
And that’s because we take our roles as parents seriously. We talk a lot about morality at our house. We certainly let the kids make their own decisions, but we don’t do it idly. We investigate, we discuss, we provide talking points and alternative theories and concepts. It’s not difficult to do, and it provides our kids with both a moral foundation and a sense of independence, of self-confidence.
So I offer this opinion – Banning is an easy way out, and it is a very slippery slope. If you find yourself providing a level of protection for your child that causes you to question your own behavior, take a moment to consider an alternative. Consider *not* protecting them, and, instead, consider teaching them the way you would want to be taught – with respect, dignity, and trust.
…just a thought…
by Stu Mark
Photo graciously provided by recompose, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved
[tags]aggression, aggressive, behavior, censorship, children, Grand Theft Auto, kids, Parenting, parents, personal responsibility, social, society, video games, violence[/tags]