The release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 last week (an 18 rated game) sparked some online discussion about whether kids should be allowed to play age-restricted video games. With stories of parents standing in line to buy copies for their 10 or 11-year olds, I was quite shocked. I’m of the opinion that age restrictions are there for a purpose. However are things really that black and white? In my first blog debate my friend Nickie from Typecast has agreed to share her view, which doesn’t entirely agree with mine! Read on to hear my thoughts and her response…
I must confess I worry about my kids’ exposure to video games. The geekdaddy is a keen gamer (he had downloaded Modern Warfare 3 from Steam as soon as he could and he was desperate to play it). Having seen him playing other games with the geekdaughter sitting on his knee I wondered if we might have a disagreement about what was appropriate for her to see and what wasn’t.
Thankfully we discussed the situation, and we agree completely on our approach. We’re not too worried about her seeing very simple “fantasy” violence (Minecraft is a perfect example of this, and I think I’d be happy with her watching me playing World of Warcraft as well), but anything with realistic violence or other inappropriate content is an absolute no no. I’m of the opinion that the age restrictions are there for good reason, and it does shock me that parents are buying copies of an 18-rated game for children as young as 10 or 11. Do these parents realise what the content of these games is? To be honest it’s stuff I don’t want to see, and I’m quite a bit older than 18! Are these the kind of parents who don’t understand technology, and don’t try to understand it? Do they allow the children to have internet-connected computers in their bedrooms? Do they know what their kids are doing on the internet? Oh, there’s a whole different rant there…
Our kids are going to grow up with an amazing selection of gaming devices at their fingertips. We have all three major consoles (despite my repeated attempts to persuade the geekdaddy to sell the XBox360!), we have iPads, we have the geekdaddy’s Mac, my PC and various laptops. With the geekdaddy’s love of first-person shooting games we will have age restricted games in the house.I will be fierce about what the kids do though. We won’t have gaming devices of any kind in their bedrooms – those will stay in communal areas. And whilst I won’t stand over their shoulders whilst they are playing, I will walk past every now and again and keep an eye on them. And I will certainly make sure that those 18-rated games stay in the geekdaddy’s hands until they are much, much older!
And now let me hand over to Nickie:
The males in this family are all big gamers. My husband has a PS3 and an Xbox 360 (both online) and the two boys have an Xbox 360 each (one online, one not). My sons are 18 and 12 and have unlimited internet access on the computers in their bedrooms and I have always let them play on games that may be rated above their actual age. But let me explain why.
Whilst I am quite a strict parent in many areas I am also a very fair parent and have struck up a relationship with my children that is built on trust. I work on the theory that if I let my children have (moderately supervised) access to modern technology and activities then they are less likely to try anything behind my back. Also, having a six year age gap between children is difficult when setting age-appropriate boundaries, but we have managed. Now our youngest is at high school and has more freedom it is even harder to control what he sees and experiences outside of the family environment.
Our 18 year old is a respected gamer amongst his online peers with a popular YouTube channel where he uploads recorded games and gaming techniques/advice. He has always preferred to be in the house, playing on a computer game rather than wandering the streets. Which is worse? Worrying that he is sprawled out on a park somewhere with a bottle of beer (18 rated) or at home with a shoot-em-up game (also 18 rated)?
Because we openly discuss the nature of computer games – pretend, animated, team-building, networking opportunity – the boys have always understood that it is a situation in which to stay calm, respect other players and somewhere to make friends if playing online. Luckily, they have understood our open-minded technique and never taken the aggressive nature of the games outside of the gaming arena.
Naturally this exercise works better with my children because they are older and more receptive to reason and understand limitations. It has also worked with cartoons when they were younger (explaining the make-believe aspect) and films that may be rated inappropriate.
What works for us doesn’t necessarily work for another family and ratings are only guidelines, after all.
Thanks Nickie for sharing how things work in your family. I certainly hope I can bring my kids up in an environment of trust and open discussion just as you have yours.
Now what about you? Do you allow your kids to play age restricted games, or do you stick to the age guidance? Do you agree with my approach or Nickie’s? If you have older kids, like Nickie does, what advice do you have for me bringing my kids up in a heavy-gaming environment? Leave me a comment and let me know!