Sunday, April 15, 2007


About consequences

I guess, what really bothers me about computer games is that (it seems to me, at least) the purpose is just to kill other people. Equally troublesome is that if you die, you simply reset (in W.o.W. you skim around as a ghost till you find and reenter your body) and return to the game. What does that teach kids about consequences?

I used to think that kids should be totally shielded from any violence; the less they were exposed, the less likely they'd become violent adults. When our oldest boys were toddlers, we tried to shield them from all sorts of violence; they weren't allowed to play with toy guns, nor toy knives, nor even toy bows and arrows. In fact we threw out our TV when our oldest son was born. That lasted about 8 years. Then one dreary November - as we dreaded another long dark winter - we caved in and bought a new TV and a VCR (it would just be for renting movies). But, a month later - in the darkest, coldest part of the winter - I was up on the roof trying to plant and aim an antenna towards Anchorage (just to watch the news, of course - and PBS). It wasn't that long before all our resolve to limit our TV fell by the wayside, and we soon found ourselves watching whatever was on. A few years later we installed a 10-foot C-band dish and went global. Now we have Dish Network with a DVR, so we watch whatever we want whenever. Adult situations, violence, gore, all the worst of it. Regrettably, Z has been exposed to most of it.

I feel guilty for not having been more restrictive, but surprisingly, Z ignores TV most of the time. He seldom watches anything. He does listen to the news once in a while and will watch a few nature documentaries (and of course he[we] like[s] Heroes, My Name is Earl and The Office), but given the choice, he'd rather turn on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim for background noise while he's playing his computer games. Oh yeah, he also loves Robot Chicken. As for me, I've watched so much TV in my life that I now find most of it boring and insipid. Far too often, I've figured out who's the perpetrator within the first ten or fifteen minutes of those hour-long cop shows. And I detest reality shows and the soap/dramas. Nowadays, TV mostly serves as background noise while I'm using my computer.

So much for non-violence. So much for protecting my kids from the evils that exist in the world. Still, computer games go way beyond the real world, don't they? But maybe there isn't that great a difference between what goes on in World of Warcraft and the random suicide bombings in marketplaces in Iraq or the cynical attempts to starve entire populations in Africa?

Clearly, these "video games" provide lot of mental stimulation and teach problem-solving skills; a lot of strategizing and team-building is needed to succeed and advance. But, surely, if a kid only experiences the violence (and lack of consequences) in these games from an early age, with little exposure to any countering influences - especially from his parents - won't his "reality" become warped, just a little? I'd guess there's an age of extreme vulnerability, where the developing mind is most open to these things. Much the same as a young child is able to learn a foreign language by assimilation. [Interesting that our school system waits until a child is way beyond that stage before they offer any foreign language classes].

If I really wanted I guess I could make an equal argument that my excessive blogging and blog-reading is rotting what's left of my brain. Enough complaining about the evil that lurks in our computers. Z is a good kid, and I'm intensely proud of him.

My kids never got into serious computer games, though we all went through periods of addiction to Sims and Sims2. I became attached to my player and wrote her long and tragicomedic story as a journal (prelude to blogging). I think it's a creative game that we all played differently (my son built wonderful houses but never played the game). As long as your son has other interests and you can talk to him about your concerns, it doesn't sound too serious. Better than drugs, alcohol, gangs, and cults!
I don't know. I think there is a genetic predisposition in little boys towards cars, guns, swords, ball games and non-fiction.
I found my 7 month old son on the carpet one day, he was crawling around with my cordless mouse pretending it was a car. By the time he was nearly a year he managed to take his dad's golf clubs, and crawl with them and a golf ball he'd stolen from the bag and crawl, pause hit, and then crawl to where the ball had gone. By the time he could walk he was picking up twigs and bits of wood and pretending they were guns. And this is a child growing up in southern spain, no kindergarten, closely supervised playdates with a full time mom. No TV except for the tamest of disney DVD's and certainly no guns, swords or anything else. not even a water pistol.

We've had to accept that there is testosterone and to try and channel it into things like judo and sport.

Apparently there is a link between watching too much violence on TV and violence, but I'm not sure if that takes the family background into account. I'm sure there is a higher chance of a child being influenced by violence if the dad wallops him or his mum when things go wrong than if the home is otherwise peaceful ....
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