Even if it doesn’t actually work.
It’s no secret that parenting as a whole has experienced significant changes to its value system over the last several years.
From parents not wanting to discipline their children for fear of what repercussions it might have on their personalities to parents trying to be “buddies” with their children, it seems – in many cases – that the job of parenting has been reduced to the “option” of parenting.
The disappointing part of this for me is that I not only see this out in general public settings, but also in the gaming community. Usually it comes in the form of a 10-year-old playing an online multiplayer game such as Battlefield or Modern Warfare, but it also extends to children playing M-Rated (Mature) games that contain certain themes that may be considered over their heads or beyond what they should be experiencing for their age range. (questions of morality, violence, sexuality, etc).
Unfortunately, there seems to be a misconception among parents that just because it is a video game, children who are not necessarily the age recommended for playing the game will understand that it is not real, thereby making it acceptable to ignore the suggested age rating entirely.
This, in my humble opinion is a problem. Not only for parents and their children, but for the future of gaming as well.
Children in the Theater of War
Far too often, I have been online enjoying a battle or two on the likes of Modern Warfare or Battlefield when all of a sudden I hear the meek voice of what sounds like a child chiming in about the awesome headshot he just got or how he just ran over someone with his tank. This is usually followed by some kind of expletive that serves no other purpose but to show that he knows how to use a four-letter word.
I will be the first to admit that I’ve used some unnecessary language while playing online. Usually, it’s while bantering back and forth with a teammate about the action or something that just happened to one of our characters. However, there is a huge difference between me and others my age (I’m 26) using coarse language in a game that employs inherently and a 10-year-old doing the same thing.
The difference? I’m an adult playing a game meant for adult players.
Fortunately the solution to this is easy. Parents, you need to stop being your child’s friend and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are mature enough to play such a game respectfully while understanding what the images they are seeing represent and that what they might hear from other players is not how they themselves should speak.
Just because your 10-year-old thinks the new Call of Duty game looks really cool and tells you that some of his friends are getting it does not mean you need to buy it for him. Thinking you know your child well enough to predict how they will act while playing such a game and hearing the language present while playing is you giving your child too much credit and you taking the easy way out of telling them “no” and having them nag you about it why.
The bottom line is this: If they aren’t even relatively close to the age of the game’s suggested rating (at least 16), then they shouldn’t be playing it. And at the ages I’ve experienced children playing these games, the only people allowing/enabling children to play these games are the parents (don’t blame the retailers, parents – the majority of retailers require proof of age to make an M-Rated purchase). You are not your child’s friend – you are his/her parent.
Putting it in Perspective
To give you an idea of why I’m talking about this in the first place, consider the following:
I enjoy gaming quite a bit. Currently, I don’t own a single game that isn’t M-rated (only eight games, but still) and the majority of those games employ a combat system (i.e: Hand-to-hand, gunplay, assault vehicles, etc).
I also have an 11-month-old son, which leaves me in the unique position of being able to practice what I preach (eventually). Fortunately, I have no doubts about my ability to govern the use of my console: No age inappropriate games, no M-rated gaming experience until at least age 16 (online gameplay will require me to play with him) and if he wants a new game, he’s going to do what I did: Ask for a birthday/Christmas gift or buy it himself. Or trade current games towards a new one.
My hope is that this will not only benefit my son and my relationship with him when it comes to gaming, but also his long-term gaming experience by teaching him respectful gaming and understanding age appropriateness.
After all, if you’re trying to choose the areas in which you’re going to be a parent, then you’ve already lost. If there’s anything I’ve learned very early on as a parent, it’s that it’s an all-or-nothing deal.
And if that means I have to regulate things that include one of my own passions, so be it. Because in the end, it’s not about me.