Parents: do you let your kids play violent video games?

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November 14, 2013 by talkaboutyork

Parenting is about choice. Everyone does it differently. People can get very judgemental about who is doing it right and wrong. I have always felt that parents know their kids best and so they should parent the way they see fit. I don’t always agree with how some people parent, but accept that people do things differently.

However.

There are times when other people’s parenting decisions will impact your child. In these instances, all you can do is teach your child how to manage the situation. So for example, if you insist that your child shouldn’t eat sweets and they go to a party and everyone else is eating sweets, that is going to be hard on your kid. As a parent, if you want them to follow your rules, you need to give them the tools to cope when situations like that arise. You can’t expect everyone else at the party not to let their kids have sweets. You may wish other parents didn’t let their kids have sweets because it would make your life easier, but not eating sweets is a choice you are making for your child.

And some people feel like that about video games. Like me. I do not want my children playing video games that are age inappropriate. My boys are aged eight and nine. They are allowed to play a few games that are rated 12, depending on the content, but that is where it ends (for some parents, even 12 certifications would be too old). They are not allowed to play on 16+ and 18+ games.

Yet some parents – many it seems – are very happy for their children to play these games. And much like the sweets analogy, just because I don’t want my children playing on these games doesn’t mean other kids shouldn’t be allowed to if their parents think it is ok.

But I wish these parents didn’t think it was ok.

It is a problem when my children want to go play at other kids’ houses and they have these games. Many parents don’t check what age game your child is allowed to play and merrily leave the kids to it. My children know that they are not allowed to play on 16+ and 18+ games, but the temptation and peer pressure must be very difficult for them. I am very appreciative that my friends do check first which games I am happy for them to play on, but it can put my child in an awkward social position as his friends might start to say that they don’t want him over as he’s not allowed to play the scary games. I guess that is my problem to help them deal with it.

But the problem comes when a child has these games on their mobile phone, ipad or other mobile device which they take out with them. If a child pulls out a gaming device on a school bus for example, the child sitting next to them will find it virtually impossible not to look at the screen and hear the sounds (unless the kids has earphones). Which means that they will still be exposed to these age inappropriate games.

I liken this to passive smoking. If you choose to smoke and damage your health, that is your choice. If you choose to smoke next to me, I will end up passively smoking. My choices are to ask you to please not smoke next to me, or to move.  If a parent chooses to let their child play a violent 18+ game on a mobile phone, that is their choice. But when they play that game in front of my child, who will be like a moth to a flame, then my child is passively involved with the game and very often can’t move out of the situation. And that isn’t right.

Put it another way: if a person was sitting next to your child watching a pornographic video on their mobile phone and your child could watch and listen to the entire thing, would you be happy about it? No? Well that’s how I feel about 16+ and 18+ games for 9 year olds. 

What games are being played?

I will declare right here that I am not an expert on video games.  I find them mindless and cannot see the fascination in them. But I have two boys and I am not a complete idiot. They do love video games. While I don’t tend to play them with them (because the motion on screen makes me feel sick) my husband will from time to time, which I am pleased about as he can keep an eye on things. And when they ask for a game, I research it pretty thoroughly to ensure it is suitable. I read online reviews, I look at the age rating, I ask in-store staff. I do not just accept that they can play with it ‘because everyone does.’

Amongst my children’s peer group, the inappropriate games that seem to be played most often are from the Call of Duty franchise (all the titles – Modern Warfare 2, Ghosts, Zombies etc). I believe some have also got GTA 5 as it’s new and much hyped. In case any parents out there are reading this and let their kids play on these games but haven’t really looked into them much, just given in to the pester power, let me fill you in.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 makes it into the top ten list of most violent games, yet it and GTA are mild in comparison to some of the seriously sick stuff that is out there. Here is however, a descriptor of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2:

The Call of Duty franchise is no stranger to violence, but this installment is particularly notable because of the “No Russian” level, where gamers join a group of terrorists as they casually murder scores of people at  an airport. Players can abstain from the slaughter if they choose, but that doesn’t save them from being executed by a terrorist leader at the end.

So that shouldn’t be unsettling at all the next time your family heads off on holiday….

I also watched a GTA clip on Youtube in which an elderly man with his genitals on full display tries to rape a young girl, before another man shoots the old guy and his friend to bits. Repeatedly. Bullets to the brain type stuff. I felt sick watching the clip. And that was one little clip. And I’m an adult. 

YET there are parents who let their kids watch this stuff. I have to ask: Why??? Have you ever looked at the games yourself? Have you played them? Have you read the reviews? If you have answered yes to all of these questions and you still feel that your child, who you know best, is more than capable of enjoying these games without being affected by them, then feel free.

But, could I politely ask that you explain to them that not all children are allowed to play these games. And that they should respect their friends who aren’t allowed to play these games and should NOT play them on their mobile devices next to their friends on school buses or after school or in the playground.

In case you aren’t sure what an 18+ rating game might include, here is a descriptor based on PEGI standards:

This adult rating is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. In general terms it is where the level of violence is so visually strong that it would make the reasonable viewer react with a sense of revulsion. This rating is also applied where the level of sexual activity is explicit which may mean that genitals are visible. Any game that glamorises the use of real life drugs will also probably fall into this category.

And you are ok with your nine year old seeing that?

Please parents:

  1. Get educated on these games and make informed choices before letting your kids play on them. Don’t just accept that your child has switched it to ‘safe’ mode. They aren’t thick. They can turn it off once safe mode becomes boring. Play the games with them to check.
  2. Teach your child that if they want to play them, they play them in their own homes and not in front of other children whose parents may not want them exposed to them.
  3. Let kids be kids. Think about it. If they are killing people violently and being exposed to rape and violence against women and a range of profanities and drug use at age nine, what will they want for kicks aged 18?
  4. Just say no. The more parents who say no means less peer pressure on young kids who feel they have to play these games to fit in.

In case you aren’t sure about the age rating system, take a look at this which explains it.

 

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13 thoughts on “Parents: do you let your kids play violent video games?

  1. Great post. I totally agree – I wouldn’t let the boys play these games. I haven’t yet come across them playing anything more sinister than Mario at someone else’s house, but we did once go to a house where there were older kids playing a really violent zombie-killing game – luckily the boys didn’t like it at all and went off to play somewhere else. I don’t know much about the ratings system but will make sure I mug up, before it happens.

    • the rating systems are actually quite complicated as they vary by country and region. Plus from what I have gathered, some of the games may be 18 in let’s say the xbox version but only a 12 on the iphone version. I have spent hours trying to get my head around which game is really bad or not but I now just follow the guidelines on the game and from reading reviews. It is a pain so enjoy your Mario time while it lasts 🙂

  2. Emily says:

    I would love to hear a response to the above from any parents of kids my sons ages (10 and 12) as to what they feel are the benefits their children get when playing these violent games? I’m thinking In particular the airport scene in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 where you wander about an airport murdering unarmed civilians or the moment in Black Ops where you torture a man by making him eat glass? Are we really ok letting our young sons play this sort of thing as run of the mill entertainment?

  3. I’m not ok with it. Some parents will be fine with it. Each to their own. I raised this issue not to point fingers of blame, but because I think there are millions of parents around the world grappling with this exact issue.

  4. Expat Mum says:

    It really makes my blood boil to tell you the truth. I have a ten year old (with an older brother) who is currently arguing that he should be allowed to do the 12 and 13 games. I keep reminding him that not only is he 10, he’s nowhere near 11. HIs 18 year old brother plays some of the games you mention, but all I can do is ban him from playing them when his little brother is around. (And I stick to that.)
    They are rated older for a reason, and it has been shown again and again that repeated exposure to such violence makes them insensitive to it in real life. What part of this don’t people understand. Yes, kids realize that it’s a game, but it doesn’t mean they’re not becoming desensitized all the same. When you see the same pictures over and over again, they’re going to lose their ability to upset or shock no matter what we like to think.
    If I think that my son is going to be exposed to games I don’t like, I usually ask the parent if they can please do something other than play video games. If there’s a problem with that I’m quite happy to have the other boy over to my house and make sure they find something else to do. (That’s probably why no one ever wants to come over, LOL)

    • My son came home from school in tears today saying that as a result of me writing this blog post, he thinks no-one will invite him to their house any more. He might have been over-reacting but he might not be for all I know. It is a shame that he feels that way either way. It really is a minefield. And I agree – it does desensitize them and I think over the long term does show in their behaviour. And I know my kids – and it would definitely negatively affect their behaviour if they played them.

  5. NoelleTee says:

    I totally agree about the violent games = no no no no no! I sometimes wonder where to draw the line. My son and I beat Xbox Lego Batman together back in September and we really bonded over the experience but the fact that even in the Lego games there is violence was something I thought about. I discussed it with my son and I can tell you that he did not become violent as a result of playing the game 🙂 In Lego Batman most of the bad guys are robots or strange clowns but of course they are still living beings. For me what worked well was joining my son in the experience so we could talk through things but to each his own.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Noelle

    http://hipburbia.com/six-things-i-learned-while-playing-xbox-with-my-six-year-old/

    • Jeffrey Jordan says:

      Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but lego batman is not violent at all compared to call of duty, assassins creed, mortal kombat (don’t know what that is? Look it up when your kid or kids are NOT around) etc. Lego batman is about Legos and most of the boss battles are just building things…it’s all about building things. Just know that lego batman, lego marvel superheros, almost anything lego. Is okay…but this is just my opinion.

  6. You are so preaching to the converted here. I wouldn’t DREAM of having GTA or Call of Duty in the house. But yes, it’s really hard when other people do. Why? Why? Why?

  7. […] had to go through some crappy times. I also managed to upset some friends along the way by having strongly held opinions (and sharing them) on things I feel passionate about, for which I am sorry. We’ve had a sad […]

  8. Stanley says:

    I am a child I know how hard it is watching other children play call of duty,gta v and lots of other inappropriate games but your only a child once and not for long it goes so quick but what I do is go out and play with my friends the reason ,in my opinion ,why parents let children play bad video games is because its easy parenting they let them go into there imaginary world and kill and shoot people but I’m just a child and knows nothing about parenting but I have been around long Anough to know how my parents work. And remember this is my opinion and if your a parent I can’t change your final decision .

  9. I completely agree with you 100%! It is actually pretty worrying how many parents do not take an interest in this issue with younger children so thank you for taking the time to write such an interesting article 🙂

  10. Jeffrey Jordan says:

    Nice article…but I just wanted to inform you about a couple things. First let me just say I am 14 and my mom and dad have let me play M games ever since I turned 13. The one game they would not let me play was GTA. But I don’t really care about that one. Second, what they did was, they said “you can play these M rated games as long as you turn the volume downso you can’t hear cuss words.” Now, what I am trying to get to is, there are easy was to turn off blood in the games and just turn down the volume so you can’t hear the cussing and stuff. Also, none of the Call of Duty games are 18+. In fact, hardly any games are 18+. I’ve never seen one. And the other rating isn’t 16+ it’s 17+. Look I don’t care what choices you make with your kids. There your kids and I don’t even know you lol. But just know that there are (in some m games not all of them) was to turn off the blood and cussing. Hope this made sense.

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