I'm a mother of four with two tween girls. I consider myself a good parent although many members of the media and political pundits may not agree. You see, I exercise my right to decide which videogames my kids are allowed to play with impunity. Some of the games in question have been labeled M for mature.
Yes I let my daughters get online and play Halo 3 in a private session with their friends in my own home under my own supervision. I just about die laughing watching them button smash each other on Soul Calibur IV and they love Rumble Roses which got an M for scantily clad ladies and good breast physics. They also play Guild Wars with my husband and I.
Personally, I think these games are a great influence for my girls. They are both mature young ladies with a firm grip on reality. The avatars they are drawn to are strong, beautiful women who I believe make better role models than Barbie or the Bratz. They are learning strategy and hand eye coordination as well as spatial awareness while absorbing the message that women can be powerful in their own way.
Would I let them play Call of Duty 4? Hell no! Its all about realism. Shooting head lice and aliens when you're not fragging your buddies on Halo is fun and can be immersive, but it would be difficult to forget you were playing a game. Something like Call of Duty is another story. These games are realistic enough to relieve adults of their grip on reality let alone creative open minded children.
Realism isn't the only factor I consider when choosing games for my kids. Games like Oblivion, my kids like to watch while the GTAs bore them to tears. They love the stealing cars and crashing them, but couldn't care less about the rest of the games' content. I'm fine with that. I would rather my kids live out their fantasies of being heroes or heroins than gangsters. There's enough peer pressure at school to act out and push boundaries without having it fed to them at home as well.
Every parent should have a different set of standards they judge games by to decide what's appropriate for their children. Those standards should be tailored to each individual child as even kids of the same age can be vastly different. For instance, when it comes to games with online multiplayer like Halo, we have to be very cautious with our oldest daughter and monitor who she plays with. She has no grasp of Internet security and what information not to give out on social networking sites or while in online multiplayer. I think she and most kids her age need to see Bender's Big Score. Actually I personally think that it should be required viewing for everyone but that's another subject. Her sister who is younger by two and a half years has no problem of grasping the concept of playing it safe on the Internet. I would sooner let her play online by herself than her big sister.
Parents have an obligation to make informed choices about what games their children play. It's not enough to look at the box for an ESRB rating and a short synopsis. Get involved with your kids. Read an article on the games they're interested in or ask someone who has played it for their advice. The best way to make those tough decisions about your children is to rent the game and play it yourself. You might find you like it enough to buy it and play it as a family.
No matter what the rules are in your own home, the government can suggest and guide those decisions, not make them. Ultimately, it's my prerogative to decide what games I'll let my kids play.
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