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.