My son came home from a friends house and proceeded to ask permission to buy Call of Duty Black Ops. I knew that this day was coming... when he was playing or watching something at a friends house that I didn't approve of. I wasn't shocked that he'd played the game at some of his friend's houses, but I was surprised to find out that it was a particular friend. I know his mom and consider her more over protective then I am, so why did her 11 year old own this particular game? Was I being overly sensitive to media reports, is this game harmless or should I continue to ensure that these types of violent video games stay out of our house?
I value knowledge and having facts to back my opinions so I started to do the research online. It wasn't enough for just me to come up with an argument - it was up to my son to convince me that the game was harmless for 11 year old boys.
We both hit the Internet to find information to back up our arguments.
The result of our little exercise was a mutual agreement that maybe now wasn't the best time for him to own such a violent game. Owning the game would mean he would be playing it too much and with the storyline mode, which is the worse mode. He agreed that he got too focused when playing video games alone had a hard time limited the amount of time he played. Ok so it took me asking leading questions for him to come up with that conclusion, but at least he did.
As for playing the game at a friend's house, I'm not stupid I know he will play the game when at his friend's house. I told him that I knew he would do things I didn't agree with, like drink alcohol underage, but I wasn't about to make it easy for him or condone it by allowing it in our home. I also think that playing with friend's in multiple player mode not only limited the amount of time he played the game but also eliminated the storyline mode, which is the goriest mode. Playing with others also kept him from getting hyper focused on the game when he played, which is the biggest issue with violent games - hyperfocus results in blurring reality and fantasy.
As for his friend that owns the game, I called his mom to find out why she had agreed to allow the game in their home, she didn't know what she was buying. She was going with the Christmas list and her husband's recommendation to buy it. Now that he has it she feels she can't just take it back. She'd rather it wasn't there but what is done is done. Her son's time on video games is limited due to his extra curricular activities and he only plays with friends.
I wish that my son wouldn't have access to violent video games, but it's not a perfect world and other families have a different value system. I can't protect him from everything, I can only hope that he makes better decisions. He has to develop his own belief system and information as a tool to help him make decisions. I wish I could say that he was strong enough not to be affected by peer pressure but he's not. As kids get older our control over them is diminished and we know less about what decisions they face every day. It's not good enough to give them rules to follow, they have to understand the reasons behind the rules and buy into the argument. Once they drink the Kool Aid, they will hopefully make better decisions.
This post was originally published in 2011 - I'd love to say this was the biggest issue I had with my son. He gave me a run for my money as his mother.
Shannon Peel is an author and marketing professional who loves stories. She raised two very different children to be independent, highly intelligent, and resourceful young adults.