One afternoon not very long ago, I got a frantic call from a mom who reached me through a series of mutual friends.
“You’ve got to help me,” she said.
“I will if I can,” I replied.
“My son is in the living room, playing ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ and I’m worried about the violence in the game.”
“How did he get it?
“I bought it for him.”
“Well, he said he wanted it, and so I got it for him, but I didn’t realize that there was so much violence in it. Now, he thinks he’s the coolest kid on the block, and his friends are coming over to play, and I’m afraid to take it away from him.”
Let’s look at all the problems in this.
First, what are you doing giving your kids games that you haven’t vetted? I mean, “Grand Theft Auto” is one of the hottest video games of all times, but it’s clearly rated “M,” which means that at most stores these days you can’t even buy it if you’re under 18.
Of course your kids want this game. It’s getting a lot of hype, and it’s “forbidden fruit.” It’s like getting in to see an “R” rated movie or sneaking a look at adult magazines or web sites.
But come one, people. Let’s use a little common sense. At least with the video games. The Entertainment Software Review Board is very careful about what they review. So, even if you don’t know the game, check that rating first. It’s on every video game package. When a game says “M,” it usually means it. And maybe your kid is sophisticated and can handle it all, but why would you want him to?
It’s your house, and you get to control what comes into it. Sorry. Those are the rules.
As for taking it away, that’s a little tougher. But sometimes you have to admit you made a mistake. This can be an opening for conversation, and if you’re honest about your feelings about something, you can usually communicate. Sometimes, saying “I made a mistake,” can be very powerful and earn the respect of your kids.
The result, my caller did take the game away and said that she had made a mistake. She and her son then had a long conversation about violence and what it means. They then went together and bought another game that they both agreed on.
“You’ve just got watch every second,” she said to me after the whole event was over.
“Yes, you do,” I said.