On June 27, the United States Supreme Court took on the State of California and its ban on the sale or rental to children of video games deemed to be violent. In a landmark decision, the court ruled 7 to 2 that video games were protected under the First Amendment and that the government did not have the right to “restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”
So what does this mean? For one thing, it means that parents need to pay more attention to the games their kids are playing, which might, heaven forbid, mean taking an interest in their lives. Do I support this decision? You bet I do. And not just as a person who games. I support it as the parent of two kids as well.
It is a parent’s responsibility to keep an eye on their kids. The ESRB has been kind enough to provide us with a guide to each game’s content. Learn what that rating means and use it.
Don’t want your kids playing games rated M? Don’t buy them. Let well-meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles know about your family’s rules. If your child has been given a game you don’t want them to have, return it, or trade it in for something else. Countless game trading sites exists; use them.
Talk to your kids about the games they play. Find out what they think is fun. Look through the stack of games sitting next to your Xbox and see what titles are there. It has been my experience that parents think nothing about playing a game like Halo with their child in the room, but as soon as the child picks up a controller, the parent throws a fit. Don’t be hypocritical. If you don’t want your child exposed to these games keep them under lock and key – or at least in your underwear drawer. Don’t assume that kids will follow the “I said no” rule. Really, would you have?
Do you have control over what your child sees when playing at a friend’s house? Probably not. There’s a solution for that too. Find out who your child’s friends are. Meet their parents. Have a conversation about what is allowed and what is not allowed.
Above all, lighten up. Does seeing a digital bloodbath on the screen mean your child is going to turn into a serial killer? Probably not. Before it was video games, it was movies, songs, books…you name it. There were probably cave parents worried about the paintings on the walls of caves and whether they would warp their cave kids in some way. This is nothing new.
In a world of internet security, parental controls and locks on computers, televisions and gaming systems, you as a parent have plenty of power to control what comes into your house and your child’s eyes. Take advantage of these systems! They are easy to learn and everybody has a computer-savvy buddy who can help you set them up (I wouldn’t take advantage of your computer-savvy 8-year-old for this one).
Do your job as a parent, don’t leave it up to the government. I mean really, these guys can’t even balance a budget. Do you want them parenting your child? I’d love to have a conversation about this. Feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts on this important decision.
Amelia Ramstead has been playing games since her family first received an Atari 2600, lo these many years ago. She continues to play, primarily on PC these days. An avid World of Warcraft player, Amelia writes about WoW topics for her blog and as a guest poster on WoW Insider. Especially interested in how gamer culture reflects in family dynamics, Amelia herself has two kids, one of whom has two WoW characters and can barely keep his nose out of his DS. Amelia is excited to join the staff of Comics Bulletin and is looking forward to the chance to converse with others on one of her favorite topics! Find Amelia on Steam as ameeramstead.