Question of the Day: Violent Videogames. What’s a Gun-Control Dad To Do?

MikeB302000 writes (without any apparent irony):

Since reporting a couple months ago that my boy Alessio, 7 years old, had experienced his first air-soft experience at the local carnival, we’ve had another development. I thought it would take longer, but he’s suddenly discovered video shooting games. He seems to have graduated from racing games to shooting games. Watching him, I realized how sick it really is. It’s pretend killing. How can that be good for a kid? But what should I do about it? It seems to me there’s a progression here, of which we’re in the very beginning. Some kids play video shooting games, some of them graduate to realistic toy guns for “playing,” and some of them go on to own and use the real thing.  All of it is about pretend killing. But, what should a gun-control advocate who understands these things and cares for his son’s welfare, do?

comments

  1. avatar Steve says:

    “It seems to me there’s a progression here, of which we’re in the very beginning. Some kids play video shooting games, some of them graduate to realistic toy guns for “playing,” and some of them go on to own and use the real thing. All of it is about pretend killing. But, what should a gun-control advocate who understands these things and cares for his son’s welfare, do?”

    This arguement is the same BS as the “Smoking is a Gateway Drug”. Correlation is not causation. Video games wont make your kid a killer. Neither will using real guns in a supervised and constructive way.

    Lighten up dude, let your boy play video games (but only after he has done his homework, chores, and played outside for a while). He’ll be fine so long as he has a father and mother that gives him the experiences and context necessary to understand that video games are just that, Games. Real life is a real life.

    1. avatar Kevin Tym says:

      as a 19-yr old firearms owner i heavily agree with this statement. If your parents still teach you morals its not a big deal. ironically I’m playing call of duty as I’m writing this.

  2. avatar Joe nobody says:

    Im having trouble thinking of a comment because to argue with this would be to state the obvious which has allready gone over the head of mikeb302000.

    1. avatar Joe nobody says:

      Maybe I spoke to soon. I apologize to mikeb302000 as I have looked into it and come to realize you are very open minded. Oops

  3. avatar Eric S. says:

    I agree that a 7-year-old should not be playing violent video games. Would you let your kid watch movies with gratuitous violence in them? It’s the same thing. Kids are affected by violence differently than adults. LtCol Grossman (the sheepdog guy) has some pretty strong opinions on this as well.

    If the kid wants to shoot guns his dad, MikeB, should introduce him to a single-shot 22lr bolt-action and take him to the range to learn proper shooting and the discipline it takes to shoot accurately and consistently.

    MikeB, if you read this, you can still believe in gun control and allow your kid to learn about firearms. If he ends up playing CoD all the time he’ll just become more fascinated with guns and without being able to handle them in some way he’ll romanticize them in ways you wouldn’t want.

    1. avatar Chaz says:

      Also this
      Frequent gamers have brain differences, study finds

      discovering the link between brain structure and video games could help researchers understand the role of the brain in addictive behaviors

  4. avatar Adam D says:

    Agreed. A 7 year old should not be playing rated “M” games in my opinion, or if it is rated for “teen,” it still may be inappropriate based on your views. The ratings are there for a reason. That said, if you choose to allow that content to your 7 year old, that is your choice as a parent; however, remember that at 7 the content he is exposed to is your choice, not his and thus your liability or responsibility. I believe that some 7 year olds may be old enough to handle such content responsibly, but that doesn’t mean that I would allow my son to play COD at age 7.

    That said, shooting galleries at carnivals, or even paper targets are not mature content, and in my opinion appropriate for a seven year old, if instructed and following proper safety precautions.

  5. avatar Charles says:

    “But, what should a gun-control advocate who understands these things and cares for his son’s welfare, do?”

    If he’s playing violent video games at the age of 7, you’re probably allowing popular culture to raise you child anyway, so you’re just going to have to take whatever you get. My 7yo watches little TV or movies and he plays no video games. (Not a judgement, just my choice.) Whenever my children come into contact with something I find objectionable I take it as an opportunity to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions on the subject with them. I do this as a reasonable, engaged, and loving father, knowing that eventually they will make up their own mind and they may disagree with me when they do. Such is life.

    I place lots of emphasis on the word “reasonable”, because if you’re full of doo doo, your children will find out and reject most of what you say. Tread carefully, Mike.

  6. avatar Mike says:

    You do realize that most shooting video games are rating Mature (17+). Do you take him to see R-rated movies as well at that age?Actually.. I probably would for my kids. But really the biggest thing is to make sure that he sees the difference between fiction and reality. If he can handle that distinction, let him play. If he can’t, no violent video games yet.

  7. avatar mikeb302000 says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful and good advice, everybody. I mean it.

    1. avatar Blake says:

      MikeB, if, God forbid, your kid does grow up to be an axe murderer, it won’t be because of anything you did or didn’t do.

      There’ve been plenty of studies done trying to implicate this kind of upbringing is responsible for that kind of adult. However, for every sick twisted individual out there, I can point out 10 that grew up in a similar situation and yet didn’t become psychotic.

      Bottom line, sounds like you’re worried about whether or not you’ve done a good job of teaching your kid right from wrong. I’m pretty sure you have taught your kid well, but what your kid decides to do with that information is entirely up to him, not you.

      I speak as someone who’s parents tried to take responsibility for my screwups. I told them up front that I knew better going in, but did it anyway, that it was not their fault. And it wasn’t.

    2. avatar Leo says:

      I have been playing “violent games” since I was very little. It all started with golden eye and even do the games give you a gun and the freedom to kill all the bad guys at will It was never about the killing that made the games fun. it was about completing the objectives. The guns are the tools you use to achieve the said completion.

      It was all about the challenge the games presented and shooters were generally more challenging than any other type of games I played. They require greater eye to hand coordination and are great to play with friends.

      Now when it comes to your part. There are many shooting games out there not suitable for little ones so if you want to support him and let him play the things he likes buy him simple games like the ones for the WII. They offer balloons shooting and archery which to him since being accurate is what drive him to this types of games would be the same.

  8. avatar malac says:

    killology.com

    ever read grossman’s books (on combat, on killing)? he devotes chapters to violence in the media and yes, it comes full circle.

  9. avatar Rob in Cali says:

    I’m 17 and I find some of the stuff in those games disturbing… Take him to the range and introduce him to guns in a controlled manner! Even if you take an anti-gun stance, this is 10x better then having him exposed to guns through Call of Duty, especially at that age.

  10. avatar TR says:

    I think just like talking about any other sensitive subject (sex, drugs, etc.) giving them complete and accurate information as is appropriate to the age diminishes curiosity which diminishes interest. Take him shooting if he wants. Stress the importance of safety. Don’t forbid him, but let him know how you feel about it. Let him know that you support his opinions and choices, regardless of what they are, and he’ll probably be less likely to do anything out of rebellion. All of this, of course, depends on the age. I’m also of the opinion that the ratings for movies and games are there for a reason, and should be adhered to. Yesterday there was a great discussion about teaching people with anti-gun sentiments to sport clays. When he’s old enough to use a shotgun you could try that, it’s not killing but it’s still a fun and safe way to satisfy his curiosity. That’s what I would do.

  11. avatar Jeff says:

    Don’t want your kid preoccupied with video games? Get him a subscription Playboy. Problem solved.

    You’re welcome in advance.

    1. avatar sdog says:

      +1 hilarious

    2. avatar RuffRidr says:

      Scantily clad / naked women seems to be the one thing that bothers MikeB more than guns.

      Well done sir!

      1. avatar mikeb302000 says:

        No, Ruff, only when they’re carrying or shooting guns.

  12. avatar Nico says:

    Bit of a tangent, but I thought people worried about kids being exposed to good ol’ cussin’ over violence in M-rated games. Wonder when that changed over.

    As for your kid, if he’s mature enough to understand that it’s fake killing for a good reason (Russians with chips on their shoulders), and isn’t to be emulated, I don’t see an issue. It’s when people don’t know where the lines of reality and morality are that trouble starts.

  13. avatar JJ Swiontek says:

    Hi Mike, find things to play with your son. Lots of games out there. Lots of things to do in RL out there too.

    I raised my son with a combination of games and RL things that we did together. Some of them were roleplaying (computer, table-top, and LARP). In doing so, I raised a ‘paladin’. And I’m very proud of him.

  14. avatar Matt G. says:

    Well I’ll skip over the stupidity of letting a 7 year old play Mature rated games and then asking if it’s a bad idea, and go right to the fact that shooting games are not about getting to murder thousands of people and not be in trouble, they are about competition, wether it be against the computer or other players online. Unless the player is allready a nutjob, then the “pretend killing” is just another type of competition, like racing games or any other. The reason shooting games are so popular us because they are a much more dynamic kind of competition, you can master the controls of a racing game or flying game, but a shooter requires some tactics and weapon selection and memorization of maps and layouts. It’s much more involved than driving down a track between the lines, and that is why they are popular.

    I would say that, because of the brain activity needed to become good at shooters, they probably help brain development and spacial awareness developement quite a lot. But of course you must find one appropriate for your child’s age. Modern warefare is not.

  15. avatar Ralph says:

    Mikey, sometimes you make my hair hurt.

    Here’s the real deal. Video shooting games are fake. I know it, you know it, and seven year old little mikey knows it, too. Probably, he knows it better than you do, since you’re the one who seems concerned. Video shooting has as much in common with real shooting as reading National Geographic has in common with a long weekend in Cabo with Elizabeth Hurley.

    Let the kid have fun. It’s harmless. And if you like “scientific studies,” they all show that there’s zero connection between violent video games and actual violence.

  16. avatar Darren says:

    I play the COD games with my 13 year-old son. At your son’s age, we mainly played dungeon-crawler games where the violence was clearly fantasy, and we discussed the difference between game violence and reality even back then. Our tastes have diverged some, he’s now a fan of the zombie variants of the COD games more so than the “realistic” ones, and he’s quite good. He’s also pretty proficient at more kid-oriented games like Guitar Hero and Viva Pinata.

    We frequently discuss the difference between real violence and the video kind. He got an unplanned object lesson from one of his best friends when he took an Airsoft pellet in the face at close range. Let me tell you, the ‘soft’ part of ‘Airsoft’ is strictly marketing. It took a couple of months to heal that one and it was just the tiniest taste of what an accidental discharge can do. We also have frequent discussions about firearm safety, that all guns are loaded, that no, you don’t know anything about firearms and have no business handling them at any time without MY supervision, and that this rule exists wherever you go. The Eddie Eagle principles (Don’t Touch, Leave the Room, Tell an Adult) were mentioned frequently.

    There seems to be no real connection in my house between interest in firearms and interest in videogames. The boy will coordinate strategy with three other friends over XBox Live to stay alive for near-impossible lengths of time killing hordes of zombies, but when it comes to real firearms he shows minimal interest unless there’s someone else his age going. My daughters have little-to-no interest in shooter games but they are the first to volunteer if I mention that I’m headed to the range. They see that trip as one-on-one Daddy time and while they like shooting, they like attention even more I think.

    They are getting big enough to handle AR-15s and the like, the boy was hitting steel targets at 300 yards a couple of weeks ago, which he kind of enjoyed. Confidence comes from competence, it’s no small thing for a 13 year-old to hit a target at that distance. Trips to the range are yet another time to review safety principles and practices and to reinforce the very real and irrevocable effects of inappropriate firearms usage.

    Mike, you may find this hard to believe but there is no community more interested in firearm safety and reducing accidents and violence with firearms than the responsible firearm owner community. Although the tide has been running in our favor to some degree over the last 15 years or so, the UK is an example of what can happen to the vast majority of responsible people when some are irresponsible or just plain criminal. We’ll fight you tooth and nail in the legislature and in the courts to prevent that happening, but if you want your child “immunized” against accidents with firearms, a trip to the range with an NRA instructor or even just talking with them about how to deal with firearms in an uncontrolled environment (the Eddie Eagle stuff) is a good way to get that done, from my experience.

    The other thing to do is find someone you know with an AR-15 or very loud hunting rifle and let them stand safely behind the shooter when it goes off. Those things are LOUD, even with hearing protection, and the blast is a visceral experience. Many small children become remarkably uninterested in firearms when offered the chance to shoot them. My son was, for many years.

    I’ve been playing videogames since 1977 (Atari VCS) and I haven’t raised my voice in anger to someone in my adult life, much less contemplated violence. Dave Grossman overstates his position considerably in my opinion. Videogames have gotten progressively more complex, graphic and pervasive in society over the same time period that firearms ownership has increased and crime has decreased. I wouldn’t let my son play that kind of game at age 7, but neither would I worry that it was predisposing him to violence.

  17. avatar Joe Wolvie says:

    Geez, this just makes me tired.

    Really, I feel like Ed in City Slickers…” Shut up! Just shut up! He doesn’t get it! He’ll never get it! It’s been 4 hours! The cows can tape something by now! Forget about it please!”

    Seriously. It isn’t a question about guns…it is a question about VALUES!Why is a 7-year old playing an “M” rated game? Is there nothing that raises a flag about that? He’s 7…let him have his childhood. Stop worrying about the impact of Video Games/Movies/Music/Comedy that was never intended for him. The damage is not from the content…but from the permissiveness of a liberal mentality that everything is OK and there are no rules.

    This is part of the real problem. Sorry to stereotype, but the typical liberal mentality is everything’s OK, there are no consequences for my actions as long as they make me feel good and no one can have anything if it doesn’t make me feel good.

    Guns are nothing more than a tool. Kids with VALUES learn that make-believe is just that and not reality. Kids get values by having discipline, boundaries and supervision. The absolute idiocy about worrying my kid at 7 might turn into a serial killer because of a video game is beyond words.

    Virtually every single generation of children from the beginning of this country’s existence played some form of “Cops & Robbers” or “Cowboys & Indians” (ohhh…I said Indians! How non-PC of me!). When toy guns were unavailable, you used a stick or your fingers. Surprisingly, many of these “kids” also had guns in the house and many of them were actually expected to use them for hunting. Funny how those kids never took the gun that was hanging over the mantle and went on a killing spree.

    Also, there are knives represented almost all of these games as well. Strange how you don’t seem to be locking up all the knives in your house for fear of them doing a Michael Myers on you while you are sleeping. Oh and don’t let them play Grand Theft Auto, Need for Speed, etc. because, you know, your car keys aren’t kept in a safe.

    There is nothing wrong with guns. There is nothing wrong with shooting. There is nothing wrong with hunting. This is true as long as there is a deep seated respect for responsible and safe handling and care. But there must be boundaries, enforcement of consequences and effective supervision. And that is YOUR job. It isn’t society’s job to monitor your child, it doesn’t take a village to raise anyone and a real parent is a parent first and a friend second.

    I think that is one of the reasons why liberals have such irrational fear of guns…the requirements for safe and responsible handling (discipline, boundaries, and consequences) are so far from their usual mantra.

  18. avatar Silver says:

    “But, what should a gun-control advocate who understands these things and cares for his son’s welfare, do?”

    Be glad that your child has a chance to grow up not being like you?

    Ok, if you want a non-snarky answer…Take your kid shooting. I’m not kidding. Supervise him yourself, in a controlled environment, where you are in charge of him and can teach him the difference between fake guns and real guns. Take the mystery out of it so he won’t feel compelled to seek out guns in a more dangerous environment. Teach him respect.

    I know this method requires actual parenting and rational thought in relation to firearms, two things many parents have in short supply these days, but there you go.

    1. avatar mikeb302000 says:

      Thanks. I may do exactly that when he’s a bit older. Believe it or not, I’m not anti gun. I really get it that safety is important if one is going to use guns, so I very well might take the advice several of you have given and take him shooting myself at some point.

      As an aside, I’m planning on going myself one day soon. It’s been 30 years since I’ve fired a gun and I’d like to refresh my memory since I keep writing about it. You guys will be among the first to know, I promise.

      A few other commenters seem to think I was talking about serious video games which a 7-year-old has no business looking at. I wasn’t. What he stumbled upon was some very simple almost stick-man kinda games among his Ben 10 and those car and motorcycle racing games that he loves so much.

      Anyway, thanks for all the comments and feedback. I really appreciate it and enjoy it.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        If you really want to keep your son on the straight and narrow, don’t let him watch C-Span.

        BTW, how’s that new government in Italy going to work out?

        1. avatar Mikeb302000 says:

          That’s the question you hear all over the place. Most feel it can’t be worse, some feel it’ll be just more of the same old thieving politicians divvying up the pie for themselves. I guess I agree with both, mor the second one.

  19. avatar thatoneguy says:

    If you are worried about the gore I think most games have parental controls to turn the level down until it becomes more paintball-like. That being said, at 7 kids need to be outside doing something constructive with their lives. Kids today spend entirely too much time glued in front of a tv or computer and the result is our wonderful childhood obesity rate and people having the Jersey Shore morons as role models. Violent games or no violent games – lock up the Xbox and get him a football and a book.

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