Confessions of a Gamer Dad

john_head By: John

  • Playing: NES Remix  
  • Reading: The Martian by Andy Weir

Parents aren’t perfect. None of us. We make mistakes, we screw up, we do things we later regret. That just comes with the job. I don’t think I’m being too egotistical when I say that I think I’ve done an above average job of parenting up to this point. I’ve got two beautiful, intelligent and compassionate girls that I think are going to grow up to be wonderful women. That’s probably mostly due to their mother but I’d like to think that I may have played some part in it as well. That being said, I know I’ve made a few mistakes and I hope that later down the road those mistakes don’t come around to bite me in the ass. The one that I’ve been thinking about lately is my childrens exposure to violent media.

                                               ESRB-M

For years experts have debated the impact that violent media (in particular video games) has on young minds. The consensus mostly being that you should keep it away from them but that it’s not going to corrupt the mind of  normal children and turn them into homicidal maniacs. And to be honest it’s an issue that I gave very like thought to until I had children of my own. I would dismiss most studies and articles that tried to link violence to video games. It is up to the parents to police what their children see. And while I still believe that to be true, now that I have kids of my own I’m taking a closer look at it and wondering how these games may affect them.

I try to keep a pretty close eye on what my kids are watching or playing but the days of having to huddle around the television in the living room are over. I probably have atleast half a dozen devices in my home capable of playing games and/or streaming television so it can be tough to always be aware of what they are seeing. So my best bet is to try and limit what I watch or play around them and teach them what is okay for them to be seeing. And I do… most of the time.

Being a parent means that your time is not your own. Your child doesn’t care that UPS just dropped off your shiny new Xbox, they just pooped their pants and you need to go take care of it. There have been days when I’ve run out to the store and purchased a new game that I’ve been dying to play only to watch it sit on the shelf as the hours tick by while my time is taken up with tantrums, bath times and picking Play-Doh out of the carpet. And that’s fine. That’s what you sign up for when you decide to become a parent, but every once in awhile impulses get the better of me and while the kids are off in the other room I put in a game that I know they shouldn’t see. They’re WAY over in the other room, they won’t have any idea of what I’m doing, right? Wrong.

                      AC2_S_055_AssassinateOnGround

Something I’ve learned is that your kids see and hear EVERYTHING. Two instances stick in my mind where my children saw something they shouldn’t have on the TV and reacted to it in a way that disturbed me. The first was only about a month ago while I was watching the season finale of 24. My oldest daughter was in bed and my 3 year old was with me. She was off in the corner coloring but during an especially brutal gunfight I turned and saw her standing facing the TV with her hands in the form of gun pointed at the screen pretending to shoot at it. Daddy’s little Jack Bauer. The other was a year or two back and my oldest daughter was in the room while I was playing Assassins Creed. Now granted I should be smart enough to not play anything with assassin right in the title while kids are around but I didn’t think she was paying any attention. And then she walked up beside me and said “Stab him, Dad!”

The guilt and disappointment I felt when I saw my girls reactions to these violent scenes is something that really sticks with me. In those instances I failed them as a parent. I know I can’t shield them from all the inappropriete content out there but I can certainly avoid being the one to expose them to it. Like I said, there is no such thing as a perfect parent and these things will happen from time to time. But it’s our responsibility as parents to give our children a solid moral foundation and protect them from mature content until they are old enough to view it with eyes that can understand the ramifications of the actions they are watching. It’s a responsibility that all parents (myself included) need to take more seriously.

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