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January 24, 2010

Video game ratings - pay attention!

According to Edge-Online, a British MP has declared that video games destroy childhoods by wrecking children's innocence with their violent content.  Personally, I think he's way off base in blaming video games, considering all of the other technological stuff going around (sexting, anybody?)  Children are bombarded with so many sexualized and violent images, and it must be hard for parents to keep their kids away from all of that.

However, one thing I do agree with him on is this:

"We are driving children to lose their childhood, and some video games are incredibly violent, like Grand Theft Auto. They are meant to be 18 but nobody cares what it says on the label."

This does happen too often, where kids are playing games that are clearly marked and intended for adults.  The ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) ratings are there for a reason.  Use them!  If it's rated "M" for mature, don't buy it for your kid, nobody how much he/she begs. Stores need to start enforcing it, too, so that kids aren't buying this stuff without their parents' knowledge.

Also, parents can make sure that the adult games aren't around for kids to play.  Don't keep them in the general games cabinet (or make sure your kid knows that he/she shouldn't stick it in the machine unless you're there).  After all, no parent should be kept from playing Grand Theft Auto IV just because they have kids.  Alternatively, no kid should be going anywhere near it, either.

Obviously, this depends on your child and how mature they are, as well as whether you're able to play with them or supervise them and discuss things with them.  I was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (an M rated game) online one night, and this obviously young boy and supposedly his dad were playing a game.  They appeared to be having a lot of fun with it too.  I didn't talk about this subject with them, but I did talk with them, discussing tactics and stuff (they were the only ones talking) and the kid seemed quite mature (for a kid, of course).  He and dad were working on taking out the sniper that kept killing us. The kid seemed quite intelligent (even if his voice did grate on my ears a bit).

So make sure you know what your kids are playing, at least in your house.  Don't go out and buy Grand Theft Auto for your 10-year-old boy.  I'm not saying he will turn into a murderous psychopath when he grows up if you do this, but why take the chance?


  1. Your last line truly says it all: the links between violent media and criminal tendencies are unproven, but "why take the chance?" Who knows what content like that does to a child's forming soul?

    I agree that it's stupid for parents to not care about the ESRB ratings. They are there for a reason! But on the flip side, in this country it is 100% legal and permissible for people to destroy their souls and the souls of their children in that manner if they so choose. It really makes you wonder where the line between bad parenting and child abuse ought to be drawn.

  2. Good question, Jenn. Wish I knew the answer to it.


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