In our family, we had to make a decision when my pre-teen son told me he was playing a game called “Call of Duty.” He told me over and over that “all the kids are playing it” and “my best friend’s parents let us play at his house.”
I spent some time on the computer learning about video games. It did not take long for my wife and I to reach a decision for our family. We found out two of the most violent games are “Grand Theft Auto” and “Call of Duty.” The “kill” choices in “Grand Theft Auto” games are particularly questionable, especially for children. Players have the option of committing evil, as well as violent deeds. For example, one can run over or shoot innocent people as well as the “bad guys” in the game.
Video games have more effect on the mind than movies do. Movie watchers are passive viewers. When your child plays a video game, she is an active participant in action, making mental choices to fire a simulated gun at other beings. The violent images are being paired with split second moral decisions about inflicting harm.
There is a rating system for video games called the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESBR). The video game makers have a lot of influence over the ESBR. The Rating Board has its standards. What others allow in their homes is their business. In our home, we set our own standards for our children.
I came on too strong with my son in the beginning. I told him I thought the game was terrible and violent. He was not allowed to play it. I made it into a battleground, and we argued. He said: “I’m only killing zombies, not real people.” It’s natural for kids to think that. I have heard adults say the same thing. It is a mental trick that we are playing to feel better about graphic violence. Kids don’t consciously say during the games “this isn’t real.”
While my wife and I were able to keep the game out of our own home, I know my lecturing made the game seem even cooler to my son. I learned that calm, consistent action is more effective that battling and lectures.
If you have any worries about what your kids are seeing and hearing on computers and entertainment systems, try to watch them in action without being observed. Then you can decide where your line is drawn at home.
Do you see any problems with the violent games our children are playing? Have you experienced this in your home? If so, I would love to hear from you.
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