I've got a parenting dilemma to share with you today….
A few weeks ago, my oldest son Kyle went over to a friend's house to play with a 5th grade buddy. While he was there, I took the rest of the kids to my daughters' dance class, and then to pick up another son from chess, and I must not have paid any attention to my cell phone. When I picked Kyle up from his buddy's house, the Mom mentioned to me that she had tried to reach me on my cell phone, to ask if it would be okay for Kyle to play “COD” with her son on the XBox.
Realizing how not-with-it I am in the realm of tween boys… I just looked at her blankly… “Umm… cod? I'm not sure what that is…” And the Mom proceeded to explain that it was a video game called “Call of Duty” which is a military war game kind of thing, and the goal is for your guy to take out the opposition. And it's really not “too graphic” or anything…. But since they were unable to reach me, Kyle and her son just played some other games on the XBox instead.
Hmm…. sounds like a little research is in order here. How old should your kids be to play Call of Duty?
So I first turned to another good friend of mine who has twin sons in the 5th grade to get her take on the matter. I was surprised to learn that her hubby had purchased the “Call of Duty- Black Ops” game for her boys for Christmas. The boys know they are not allowed to play it when their younger (3 year old) sister is in the room… so they wait until she goes to bed. She explained that the game comes with some sort of levels of control- where you can decide the level of explicit play (I suppose referring to language and graphic violence). She said that she and her husband set it to the most explicit level to test it out when her boys weren't around, so they could see how “bad” the game could get…. and she said while the language was indeed colorful- it wasn't too over the top…. and the violence was video game violence- shooting but without blood and gore (I think).
She went on to talk about another feature of the XBox console (we are Wii people here at the Rowley house)… is that you connect online to other XBox players. So her boys connect with their older cousin and can play the game against each other. She mentioned that when you do this, you can hear the people you are connecting to speaking (you are not just hearing the game)…. so her nephew is cautious about playing the game with her sons if her nephew has his older friends visiting at the time (I guess to reign in their own colorful language!)
So I have to admit- at this point I am kind of thinking…. a violent video game that is about killing people, and a game console that allows my kids to connect to other people online and talk to them, while I am not necessarily in the room overseeing this…. so far, I'm not liking this.
Let's dig a little further….
I go out to Amazon to look at the “Call of Duty-Black Ops” game, and I see that the rating on it is “Mature”. What does that mean exactly? Well according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board:
Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”
So here is the debate I have going back and forth with myself:
How do I feel about the game- it's rating and it's content? (What are my family values as it relates to this?)
Well, I don't feel very good about “Call of Duty” to be honest. I really don't think my 10 year old should be playing video games where the sole purpose is to kill people- using tactical Cold-War era weaponry. If this were a movie about war, I don't think I would be showing it to him… so why is a video game any different?
How do I feel about my son's maturity level in this area? (Every kid is unique in what they can handle, right?)
Actually, I feel that my son is pretty mature, and he can see something like this, and play the game, and know that killing is wrong, etc. I don't see him taking what he sees here and play-acting it with his siblings. I also don't think he would play this game and end up with nightmares or new worries about real wars and conflicts.
And what about his social implications?
I know that I don't want to be the restrictive Mom raising the sheltered kid here. As much as this game does not align with my personal values, I don't want to bar him from playing completely- because forbidden fruit is desired that much more. And I certainly do not want to overlook “the cool factor”- I don't want him to be the uncool kid in school because his Mom won't let him see more mature movies, play mature video games, and so on.
What did I eventually decide to do?
Kyle and I (and Steve) sat down and discussed why we are not thrilled with the idea of this game… that we think violence-based video games are not great fits for 10-year olds, and that violence in general is just wrong. BUT…… we understand why he would want to play a game at his friend's house, and find out for himself what “all of the other kids at school are talking about”… and that he would and should be naturally curious as to what the big deal is all about. So we will allow him to play it at his friend's house if he chooses. And Kyle knows that we will never (at least not for many years) own this type of a game at our home because he has so many younger siblings.
So please weigh in. Do you think that I made the right decision? What would you do…. stick to your guns (pun intended!) regarding your own family values, or give in to the social pressure to let him try out the game?