This originally appear in Josh’s blog in October 2014.
My opinion has changed slightly since I wrote this 4 years ago. I actually do believe that video games, television, and the news all play a part in the mental psyche of children. Especially as we watch in horror as the number of school attacks rises among our youth. That being said, I still hold true that it is each individual parent’s responsibility to monitor what their children play, and to teach them the difference between a video game and real life, and in some cases, have the foresight to just say no to a violent video game that your child wants. They may scream and throw a tantrum, but it’s a parent’s job to protect their children first, not be the best friend all the time. Trust me, when your children grow up, they will thank you for caring.
First Person Shooters (FPS) have been around for a while. Perhaps one of the most famous FPS games, Doom, was labeled a controversial title for its extreme use of violence. So much so that shortly after Columbine Doom was thrown under the bus as the game that prompted the individuals to be so violent. Well how does that explain the other millions of players? If the video game is what prompted the violence, why isn’t there an army of angry teenagers all hell bent on world wide destruction? The game is not the soul reason for the murderous rampage. Even today, gamers of all ages continue to play FPS games such as Destiny and Call of Duty are just as violent, if not more so, than Doom ever was, and yet not every kid that plays it turns into a murderous psychopath.
What about fighting games? Those are violent too after all. Street Fighter and Dead or Alive both feature martial arts in a violent form. Millions more play these games along with first person shooters, and yet they are not violent. Kids are constantly exposed to violence from ever facet of media, not just games.
Look at movies. How often are kids watching violent movies? What about the news? We all know that violence sells in the news, and as such the news premiers violence over all. Books portray violence too; just read ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (the book is better than the movie…which is hard I know). My point is that all day long individuals are exposed to violence, and not all of them become murderous.
So where do we draw the line? Why are games blamed for the violence? Because people need something to blame, and why not blame an easy target like a video game. A person could easily say that heavy exposure to violence can morph a child’s mind, and stereo-typically, video games are a child’s toy in most of the political officer’s minds (despite the fact that the average gaming age is 35). While it is possible for children to be influenced by what they watch, it is also equally true that a parent’s responsibility is to monitor what their children are watching, and also to explain to them the difference between fantasy and reality.
The video game does not have a conscience, or a mind of it’s own. Much like a gun, it is simply an object that does not function without outside input. This means it is imperative to not let ourselves become lazy when raising our children and to say no when they want a game we don’t feel would fit them. We can’t always be our children’s friends, sometimes we need to put our feet down and be the parent. Just as if you would instruct a child of the dangers a gun possesses and to never play with them, a parent has a duty to spend time with their children and coach them through their early life about what is right, what is wrong, what is real, and what stays in a video game.
Only when parents realize that without them, their children will grow up lost can we begin to see the problem. Individual parents know what is best for their own children. You watch them play, and you know if they are mature enough to handle adult topics as they grow. If you place a child in front of a TV screen and expect an object to raise your child, you will not be raising a child. You will merely be exposing a person who isn’t quite sure of their place in the world to uncontrolled influences of the media which, for all intents and purposes, has a primary function to entertain and raise money, not your children. If we truly want to put a curb in violence, parents need to start being parents again. Spend time with your children, turn off the TV once in a while and go outside and play with them. Games will always be there on a rainy day, but that time you spend with them could be the best thing that ever happens to them.