I'd show you more about the game, but upon entering my 10 year old son's birthday I was told I could not gain access.

When visiting the Ubisoft site I was asked for a date of birth. Upon entering my son’s birthday I was denied access …. because he is TOO YOUNG!

As our son continues to beg, plead and cajole us to allow him to play the new Assassin’s Creed III, I find myself getting very angry and frustrated.

Not at him (okay, maybe a little at him) but at my parenting counterparts – some I don’t know, and some I know fairly well.

For those unfamiliar, the requested video game is the third in a series of very popular action-adventure video games created by Ubisoft. Rated M/17+ by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for blood, strong language and violence, the review on Common Sense Media states:

“Parents need to know that this game is very much about violence as you play as a hired hit man, of sorts, to take down key targets with cunning and strategy. This usually involves skulking through the shadows to remain undetected and figuring out how to accomplish the task, such as a knife to the throat from behind. People you kill fall to the ground and some blood is seen.”

I can’t say that I understand the appeal of this type of game, but I do know that many people (including my husband, for whom I purchased Assassin’s Creed II last year) play and enjoy the game. What I don’t understand is why I’m arguing with my 10 year old son who has told me that many of his friends are allowed to play the game. And, reportedly, tell him that his mother (me) is “overprotective.”

When, may I ask, did that become a bad thing? And when, did I become the “overprotective” mom???

I am accepting that peer pressure, and pressure to conform, is a fact of growing up and of parenting. I am also accepting of the fact that there will always be things that we, as parents, will not agree on. Some parents don’t allow any type of toy that even faintly resembles a firearm – our son has what I can only describe as a full arsenal.

And the pressure is going to continue to build. Cellphones, mobile devices on the bus, online games, R-rated movies, alcohol – there is always going to be someone who gets to do, or have, something that my children cannot because their father and I will not permit it. Today it’s video games. Tomorrow it will be parents who allow their underage children to drink at home, while ours already know they will be waiting until they are 21.

The frustration for me comes when there are guidelines and, with larger issues like alcohol, laws that are designed to help us protect our children.

When faced with mounting evidence that I may be the last holdout on allowing my child to virtually stab someone in the throat and bleed to death at his feet, I start to wonder if I’ve lost my mind. Do the parents know about the violent content and just think it’s okay because the content isn’t real, or have they never bothered to watch their children play? Or, as was so wonderfully summed up in a recent Boston Globe article, did they also feel the pressure to allow their child to conform, or figured there were bigger battles to fight?

Because, honestly, that’s what’s really driving me nuts me right now. Given that my goal is to protect my child, one of the things I want to avoid is subjecting him to ridicule and derision from peers. Is mom overprotective or is my son a “big baby?”

Frankly, this is not about him turning into a gun wielding psychopath desensitized to violence because of his exposure to violent video games and movies. This is because he is 10 and we want our 10 year old to live a little while longer in a world where knife wielding assassins do not exist (never mind that my son is the one wielding the knife).

I also understand I may seem like a hypocrite because, as I said, my husband regularly plays the games in which our son is so desperate to partake. But he does it in the evenings, after the children are in bed, connecting with a friend over Xbox Live. (And I will tell you, he regularly expresses his dismay at hearing “small voices” also playing the game. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day he yells “hey lady in the background talking about your son’s backpack – do you know what he is playing right now??”)

Rather than being frustrated by my husband’s video gaming tastes, I’m grateful for the insight it gives us as we work to find a compromise to accommodate our son’s requests. Decisions we’ve made include:

Parents will play – If there is any question about the nature of the game, either the violence level, or privacy and security as it relates to online games, the parents will play. Where my husband takes on the Xbox and first-person shooters, I’m in charge of the online games. Not only will this allow us to check it out, but as in the case of Dragonvale which I’m currently playing, it gives a chance for my son and I to discuss something of interest to him.

He will be allowed to play select M-rated games – For example, he is allowed to play Halo 1 because, according to my husband, the violence involves lasers and aliens. But, he will only be allowed to play these games at our house when my husband can play with him.

When away from home – Rather than forbidding him from playing the games wherever he may find them, he will be allowed to play games like Assassin’s Creed when visiting friends without fear of punishment. BUT – it is expected he will tell us when he has played the games.

We have done our best to explain to our son why we have put the limits we have in place, with my primary explanation being that our job is to protect him. It’s also serving as a lesson for all of us on how to handle, and not bend to the peer pressure placed on us by either children or parents.

They can go ahead and call me overprotective. I’m pretty sure I will, and have, been called worse.

 

21 Responses to Call me overprotective

  1. Liz s says:

    As the mom of an almost 10 yr old (and a 4 year old), you summed up our lives in a heart beat. My son has really never asked to play the games but only because he knows it just won’t happen. Ratings are there for a reason and parents should know what their kids are playing and WHY these games have the ratings that they do. I would not allow my son to watch something rated M. Why would I allow him to play a very visually accurate game rated M????

  2. Catherine says:

    Fortunately, my boys are only 5, so aren’t even aware that games like Assassin’s Creed even exist. However, they do have friends who have played some games we think are entirely inappropriate, like Call of Duty. Like yours, my husband plays these games, but only when the boys are in bed or not around. As they get older, we will continue to be conservative about this and not allow it in our home. I think the rules you’ve outlined are fair and straightforward. Good for you!

  3. heidi says:

    I totally agree with your hesitation to allow your son to play these games. I know people say that violent video games don’t make kids violent. I happen to agree with that for most kids who don’t tend to be violent anyway. However for kids that may skew toward violence, I don’t think these games help. I also don’t see what benefit comes of playing these games for any kids. I have 2 boys, one 17 and one 9. We did not allow the 17 yr. old to play violent video games. He begged and we just said ‘NO’ cause when I have given you life and then pay all of your bills, I get to say that! Now at 17, he is a really gentle soul and has no interest in those games anyway. Perhaps that would have been the case anyway, but not playing certainly didn’t hurt him. The 9yr. old is now not allowed to play them.
    As far as playing at friends house, I had no problem telling him he couldn’t play them there either. When I mentioned to a mom that I would appreciate it if the kids didn’t play those games while they were together and if she didn’t want to monitor, just send those kids over to my house, they can play here…7 out of 10 times, the other mom said something along the lines of, ‘my kids can’t play that’ or ‘we don’t even own that’. So, kids? They lie! A lot!
    Good luck and go with your gut.

  4. Lisa says:

    Glad you’re saying no. Are you sure that as many other parents are allowing their children to play as he claims? I don’t remember where I read it, but one source suggested talking to the parents, because all too often, the number of parents supposedly allowing an activity has been vastly overstated.

    Also, I read one of the articles you posted earlier this week via Twitter, and I was shocked by the number of parents who said things like “well, he’ll just play it at a friend’s house so I might as well buy it.” Epic logic fail! Sure, our kids might play something at someone else’s house, but that hardly means I should shell out a bunch of money so my kid can spend hours and hours playing something to which I object. There’s a huge difference in someone playing a game for a couple of hours at someone’s house and someone spending hours and hours playing it at their own house. Plus, it hardly explains why I should spend money on something that I don’t want to support. If I think that violent games are a problem, the last thing I’m going to do is buy a copy, which both supports the continued existence of the games and worse, continues to allow companies to rake in huge profits for a product that isn’t exactly benign.

  5. Deb says:

    I have two teenage boys and have two comments for you Kristin. First, when your kids tell you that other kids get to do things they are not allowed to do, don’t believe them. And even if it is true, my standard response is that I don’t really care what other families do. Dad and I make choices for our family based on what we know is best for our family. Period. Second, the fact that Dad plays violent video games makes them attractive to the kids. Even though he is playing it after your son goes to sleep, he clearly knows that the game is in the house and that Dad finds enjoyment in it. Kids learn more from what we do than what we say.

  6. Tina says:

    Kristin, I’m right there with ya. Its SO frustrating. And we don’t even allow our kids any toy weapons, other than water guns which honestly nowadays look NOTHING like guns anymore, for the most part. (at least the ones we buy.)

    Even among my peace loving friends, I’m the last hold out on allowing my children to watch violent movies/shows/games. We don’t even own a game system (though we do play online and computer games, but we are very selective.)

    Here’s the thing, for me….Its not ok for my kids to pretend to kill or even hurt. Kids put their heart and soul into their make believe play. I don’t want their heart and soul put into things like hurting and killing. My kids understand that “fighting games” are not ok for them to play. My son doesn’t always like this, but he knows the rules. When he’s older, he’ll be allowed to play “Daddy games.” No idea when that will be, but not now (he’s 7). We’re taking it day by day.

    Thinking of it this way…if there were rape video games (and I don’t know that there aren’t, but I’m not up on this stuff), parents would have NO problem saying no to them. Yet murder games are ok? Since when is rape horrible, but murder is ok? To me, they’re equally horrific. I don’t want my kids pretending at either. To me, that’s a pretty easy decision. But for some reason, I’m in the minority in our culture.

  7. Judi says:

    I am with you Kristin. My son is 9 1/2. He has played Call of Duty at friends hosed, but never ours. my husband is a gamer, and plays after the kids go to bed. There will be plenty of time for him to play Halo when he is older. We are fortunate that he only really asks to play when he has friends over and understands when I say no. We stick to Lego and Minecraft.

  8. Erin says:

    I’m sorry, maybe I’m clueless, but I find it hard to believe that a bunch of 4th (or 5th) graders are playing this game. Are the parents you know good friends? Guess you can’t call them out. Here’s the rub for moms (and dads): once we start giving in, where else is there to go? My son has begged for the past two years to go this winter concert hosted by the local pop radio station. And while I’m sure it would be fine if I went with him, if he goes to his first concert at 10, what will he be asking to do at 12? I think the tween years are really hard because it seems like everything is creeping younger and younger. Yesterday a colleague at work was editing stories written by kids from the city school system. They were 8th graders tasked with writing about a hardship that changed them. One boy wrote about going to his son’s funeral. HIS SON. Just makes me want to work really hard to keep my boys doing little boy things as long as possible. Which is so hard to do in this day and age.

  9. Bridget says:

    I am with you Kristin – I am shocked by what other parents allow their kids to watch and play – like that little girl who was murdered at the midnight showing of Batman – a movie I won’t let my almost 10 year old see yet. When I hear the games and movies that my kids’ friends play – I’m just confused. Why?

  10. Shannon says:

    Kristin,

    I was you when my son was younger. While I agree with some of the others that sometimes kids aren’t truthful about how many of their friends are playing these games, some parents ARE letting them play. I actually talked to one of the moms and she said that because her older son was playing it didn’t seem fair that her younger one couldn’t–he was in 2nd grade!

    I personally held out until my son was 14. He begged and pleaded for years and I kept pointing out that he could play these games when he was old enough according to the ratings. He occasionally played them at friends houses (but like you he needed to tell me he was playing them and ask permission–no sneaking around). Now that he’s in high school I feel like he’s more mature and ready for some of the more violent games.

    That being said, it still isn’t a free for all over here. He’s not playing Grand Theft Auto or anything and I try to monitor how violent (and how much time he spends on) the games are.

  11. Jessica says:

    Don’t forget kids are all about pushing the boundaries. As of right now, I have to ‘approve’ of my 10 yo watching pg-13 movies ( I usually let him watch most things, but really?… I don’t think he needs to be desensitized about violence, sex and deceit so much, KWIM?) Just saying…. I’m so glad you are talking abut this!

  12. Teri K says:

    Everyone who has a son should read the book Boys Adrift! It helps put a lot of things into perspective regarding video games. And don’t worry, there are lots of us who forbid violent games, but there’s always one or two parents in every class who allow it. What a great opportunity to show our kids that we don’t succumb to peer pressure either!
    And why do kids play video games on play dates anyway? Shouldn’t they be building a tree house or shooting hoops or building snowmen?

  13. Julie says:

    Thankfully, you know what you’re getting into, eh? There are plenty of parents who don’t really know what the game is & allow it anyway conceding to the peer pressure.

    A few years ago, I recall an acquaintance was entirely offended when the her 12 yr old son’s Sunday School teacher gave each child the book, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” at the end of the year. I asked if her son plays violent video games & she replied, “of course”. So, it’s okay to visualize killing people, but not read about it because reading a nonfiction story about killing is disturbing.

    Everyone has varying degrees of boundaries. It sounds like you’ve put much thought into your boundaries & there’s no reason to be ashamed of that.

  14. Jane C. says:

    I tell my kids what my dad told me. Blame it on me. If it saves them some embarrassment to tell their friends that their parents are uncool and overprotective, I’m fine with that.

  15. Geli says:

    My older boy is 10, and he is getting into the video game age rather than the playdate age, but thankfully his closest friend has the same rule as us about rated M video games.
    I don’t think you’re overprotective. We may be babying out kids in some aspects of life, but I think that shielding them from learning how to silently assassinate people is just fine.

  16. Kat says:

    This Christmas, I caved. We let my friend buy my 11 year old son Call of Duty to go along with the xbox we bought him for Xmas. I struggled every day, particularly after Newtown, and my friend even told me she dug out the receipt after Newtown, waiting for me to call and tell her to return it. I didn’t. My son has played COD at her house, and one other friend’s as well, for the past 2 years, and, well, I felt that bell has been rungand I couldn’t unring it. He is very clear on how I feel about shooting games and that he was limited until fairly recently. We talk often about the difference between games and real life. With that said, no way is Assassin’s Creed or Grand Theft Auto coming into my house. We all draw lines in different places, and they may not always make sense to others, or even ourselves. Luckily his two best friends are opposite ends of the spectrum – one isn’t allowed to play anything violent, or go on instageam, or play online with strangers, and the other has basically no monitoring at all, to the point that even my son questions the parents’ judgment. lol We live in a world we could not have imagined when we were their age, and I am just doing the best I can. For the record, since Xmas, COD is not the #1 game of choice – he seems to be sticking with minecraft. :)

  17. Jen says:

    Parenting never works, in my admitted limited experience to one 9 year old, when you say “Do what I say, not what I do.” I’ve had the most luck when I model the behavior I want to see. So in this case… I wouldn’t (and don’t) have that type of game in my home and so playing it wouldn’t even be an option. Since you already do have the game and he knows it, if I was in your shoes I’d use it as an opportunity to say “Dad and I have given it serious thought and this game isn’t apriopriate for ANYONE, kid or parent. So we’re getting rid of it. Dad won’t be playing it and neither should you.” Really, should this kind of violence be entertainment for anyone of any age?

  18. Yolanda says:

    Kristin, I would never call you overprotective… I would call you a Smart Parent. My son is 12 (he will be 13 at the end of the month) and he started asking me if I could buy him COD: Black Ops 2. After reviewing it on Amazon and watching the video about it. I told him that he couldn’t have the game because it contained way too much obscene language, violence & gore. Someone out there who may or may not be a parent has Rated this game as Mature and gives reasons why. When my son is “mature” (18 & over) he can buy and play whatever game but right now it is my decision. I have taught him in other areas of life not to give into peer pressure and I don’t want to be an example to him of giving into peer pressure. There is pressure on parents as well to give their kids everything they want because Bobby & Tito have iPads, iPhones, etc. I think what do these kids have to look forward to in life when they are given everything now?? For me, there is already too much violence in the world and I want to lessen the amount of violence that is in my home. I have a Wii & Playstation 3 at my house and both systems are in the living room and will stay there. My son is allowed to play Teen Games and I feel okay about that.

  19. Paula says:

    My son has a couple of games like Call of Duty, but has only started playing them since he turned 16. He is also not allowed to play when his younger sister is around. We have open lines of communication about what he’s playing. And he also has a lot of other interests, including sports, guitar and reading for pleasure. So, on top of school and homework, he really does not spend a significant amount of time on any video games. When he was younger, I had no problem saying “No” to games I felt were inappropriate for his age. And if I felt there were a game that were inappropriate even now that he’s older, I would still say no.

    And though I do strive to model behavior for my children – politeness, treating others with kindness, helping those less fortunate, etc. – I do not feel that just because I don’t think something is appropriate for my child that the adults in the house have to skip it, too. I drink wine with dinner a couple of times a week. I don’t think I have to give that up because my kids can’t do it and I need to model that for them. I don’t only watch children’s movies because those are the only movies I want my children to watch and I need to model that. I don’t think I shouldn’t drive a car because my kids are too young to drive. My children know that there are some things that adults or older kids get to do that aren’t appropriate for children yet.

  20. Jessica d says:

    i am in agreement with you my 10 & 11 year olds are not allowed to play it, but I allow my 16 year old to play it. Only when the other boys are in bed though.

  21. Nicole says:

    I hear you. I think my son was 11 when we got the PS3 and he begged for the Assassin’s Creed 2 game. We finally gave in. I’m not really sure why. Yeah, the title is pretty gruesome. But at least this series has an amazing plot. (as opposed to Black Ops, which has none) Assassin’s Creed 2 is the reason my son (13) now takes Italian and is actually good at it. He wants to visit Italy because of all the beautifully detailed scenery in the game. Yeah, I know he could have found that interest from a book. But you take what you can get. I haven’t seen Assassin’s Creed 3, but I can assume since it is set in the Revolutionary War your son might actually get interested in it.