The biggest selling video games tend to be over the top in all regards. The graphics are breathtaking, the gaming worlds are enormous, and the gameplay is memorable. However, elements that many parents would find undesirable also tend to be over the top: Profanity, violence, sex, and drug use. How is a conscientious parent to deal with the proliferation of these types of games when raising a gamer child?
Popularity And Fitting In
It is a given that kids will want to play the most popular games that all their friends are playing. While occasionally this may be something relatively innocuous like Pokémon or Mario, oftentimes it is something more "adult" like the Grand Theft Auto series or The Witcher games.
Trying to tell a child that they can't play the games all their friends are playing is a tough sell. They may complain that their friends will think they are babies, nerds, or some other negative type of person. Trying to trot out the old line, "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" will not solve the problem.
Rather than working on trying to point out specific problems with specific games, it's a good idea to discuss appropriateness in general. Discussing things such as why adults can drink alcohol and kids can't or why adults can drive cars and kids can't. This is an attempt to find common ground. If a child can agree with a parent on some general notions of age-related appropriateness, the conversation can then be turned towards video games specifically.
A good resource for examining inappropriateness in games is this survey done by PC Byte. If a child can be convinced that yes, many of the things that he/she agreed were inappropriate in general are found in the game or games under discussion, any subsequent prohibitions will at least be understood, though not necessarily agreed with.
The Evil Of Online Interactions
Aside from the actual game content, evil also lurks in what are called "online interactions". Online interactions are voice or typed discussions between players engaged in a particular online game. Most online games allow chat of some form to help them coordinate game strategies, instruct each other about game specifics, and so forth.
While positive interactions do occur, in many cases players use these communication channels to berate each other or discuss decidedly inappropriate topics like sex, racism, or drugs. While many games use chat filters for typed interactions that changes a word like "sex" into "***", there are no filters for voice chat.
Parenting Options To Cope With Unwanted Online Interactions
The most obvious option is to simply turn off online access. If the game is being played via a Wi-Fi connection, this can be done user router software. However, doing this will likely provoke a confrontation. It will also be an enormous challenge to persuade a child to quit playing a particular game just because there are some bad players who say bad things, especially if it is not an inappropriate game.
At this point it's time to pull out those tried and true parenting skills and discuss the kind of behaviour that children should engage in when offline. For instance, tell the child that if a stranger came and wanted to discuss sex or drugs in person, that is the time for the child to leave and tell an adult. Just because there is not a physical person present, it does not mean that the conversation is somehow safer.
A Better Person, A Safer Gamer
In all cases, the top priority should be raising a child that has a strong sense of right and wrong. A child with a conscience and support from a loving parent is always the best defence against any potential threat, be it from a video game or online interactions.
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