The Video Game Conundrum

I can use that title now that I know how to spell “conundrum” – thanks to Laurie and Richard via Twitter.

So here’s the deal. Declan has always been sensitive. And we have always been about withholding media for him, especially violent media. Sure, he would watch a bit of the Wiggles and Blue’s Clues since, well, forever. And to my ever living shame, it turned into a habit where he does it during breakfast – argh! But sometimes you do what works in the rhythm of your family.

I remember reading my mommy message boards and being appalled when one of them brought her 18 month old to see Spider-Man 2. The movie! The one with Doc Ock and his crazy metallic tentacles! What??

As I (and Declan) have grown older, I have realized that each kid has their own threshold for these things, but seriously? Eighteen months? At 18 months, you can’t even discuss what they are seeing and explain the why’s, how’s and the NOT REALS.

But in retrospect, I realize that we probably went a bit to far in the other direction. Oh, I know we were following Declan’s lead. When a 5 year old watches Curious George and bursts into tears every other minute, clearly they are not ready for the hard stuff.

As in: Star Wars.

Which is what all the kids love, and many of them have seen. Even the later ones (or “earlier” ones, depending on how you look at it).

But I know he can’t handle it, and I still have that anti-gun, anti-violence, anti-screentime voice niggling in my head.

So, we have talked about the movie, told him about the characters, purchased a few books, and when we got the Wii – the Lego Star Wars game. We hesitated letting him play the game, but after we checked it out, we realized there was less fighting and more puzzle-solving.

So we gave it a shot.

And he’s totally digging it. Not scared, not upset when someone gets lost, not worried over the consequences… it’s like the new ways video games are being used for curing phobias, where patients explore things in the virtual world to conquer their fears in the real world.

OK, a bit less dramatic than that, but you get my drift.

We make sure we have chats after we play. “What is real about the game?… What is not?… One thing that we don’t like about video games is they show that fighting as an answer to problems. How do we like to solve problems?”

And when he is ready (it will be a while), we’ll let him watch the first (fourth) Star Wars.

I realize this is a little backwards, and it will sure be interesting when he finally does see the movie and he knows all the characters and the plot before he sees it.

It sure seemed backwards to his friend Aidan, who is allowed to watch the first (last) three movies but not play video games. He was astounded when he found out that Declan *could* play the Star Wars game. I explained to them both that each family had their own way of doing things and their own pace, and what works for one may not work for the other.

But I *still* would never take my 18 month old to see Spider-Man 2.

This article has 19 comments

  1. Sparkliesunshine

    I would never do that either. I would be very cautious what movies I brought my child too. I am typically appalled at some of the movies I see young children being brought into.

    I am also very against violent toys and games. VERY against.

    So I am with you on this. Sensitive or not. Even if I thought my child could handle it more I would definitely put a cap on violent images they see.

    The desensitizing that happens to some of these children is really scary.

  2. Anonymous

    good post.

  3. joansy

    I’m right there with you. My kids (6 1/2 years old) still watch Max & Ruby, Hi-5 (I hate that show), and the Wonder Pets. I actually lied to my Bella this year when she asked if she could have a Blue’s Clues costume for Halloween and told her that they didn’t make that costume past size 4 (which may even if fact be true, I suppose). I don’t want her to be laughed at by her friends at school who are into Spider Man, Bat Man, Super Man, Bratz, and Hannah Montana.

    We finally made it through Dumbo but we’re still light years away from Harry Potter or any of the action hero movies. Our wii games are still mostly Mario oriented, but maybe we’ll expand there too.

  4. Meghann

    We’re some of those horrible people that let our kids watch stuff young. Like, I won’t even give examples because I think your eyes would bug out of your head. But, my kids have never had nightmares or anything.

    I’m more shocked the 18 month old sat through a movie in a movie theater at all.

  5. Rhiannon

    I’m not *STILL* not mature enough for Star Wars (but, I do enjoy being Lego Princess Leia!)

    I have some friends who let their 3 year old watch Austin Powers. The kid says things I wouldn’t repeat. It totally puzzles me!

  6. Mr Lady

    Lego Star Wars is an EXCELLENT game! There are others, too. The Wii secret? Go get used Gamecube games. They’re, like, $8 at Gamestop and they have all the Nemo games, etc. You know, the warm and fuzzy games. You can pulg a game cube paddle right into the top of the Wii.

    And yeah, my dad and I took 2of3 to the Exorcist when he was 6 months old, because we couldn’t find a sitter. Go ahead and disown me. (He totally played on the floor and didn’t watch it. Which, when typed, I realize isn’t much better. I’ll shut up now.)

  7. Ali

    have you seen the Lego game? it’s not EXACTLY what i’d call violent. they are LEGO men. it’s funny. i mean, there’s parts where the weapons turn into carrots? so, yes, i let Josh play. it’s all about what feels right.

    (but, then again, he’s also seen all the movies…hahah)

  8. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Yeah, Ali, that’s why we let him play it. Baby steps.

  9. MB

    Yeah, I’ve eased into the scary stuff, too, but it’s gotten harder since her slightly-older cousins are into all kinds of weird and wacky stuff. Most of the time she worries about me — and the impact that sad scenes will have on me. She’ll watch craziness on screen and then cover my eyes when someone’s feelings get hurt. I think I’m creating a monster.

  10. Anonymous

    I let mine what whatever, (ok within sooome reason)- I really don’t think it matters.

  11. Shutter Bitch

    I know what you mean about Spider Man. I rented the first Spider Man, that I’d seen already prior to becoming a parent, when my son was about 3. I stopped it in the middle of the movie because it was too violent. And then I got mad. Because Spider Man is marketed to my toddler (who is now 4) in the form of shirts, underwear, backpacks, lunch boxes, toys, etc… and yet the threshold of violence is so high!

    I’m not normally worried about some bad language, or even some fighting with his movie watching. But Spider Man was over the top. Nuh uh. Not in my house.

  12. Cindy

    I was at Avenue Q last month and someone had brought their (approximately?) ten year olds to see it…I mean really, Avenue Q??? I know they’re puppets — but it was pretty sexually graphic!!

  13. nutmeg

    We just entered the world of video games – sort of. No lie, Nathan just figured out how to get his old Atari working on our wide screen. The girls are playing Donkey Kong and Pong and loving it!

  14. Jennifer A.

    I got chewed out by a mom at work because I would not let my 3 and 6 year olds see Batman.
    I keep the violence to a minimum (sponge bob is the worst they are allowed to watch) and watch with them and ask questions of what they are watching.

  15. Mollyfa

    I find that we fall somewhere in he middle of the road. They are allowed to watch movies and tv and play video games, but there is also a time limit imposed on all of them. We have one set of friends who tend to be a little stricter, and another set who let there kids watch all kinds of things that I find inappropriate. Luckily, all of the kids seem to be well adjusted and get along just fine.

  16. wheremytruthlives

    Were you in my car yesterday?
    I had this conversation with Bart. One of his friends left a Nintendo portable game at our house a few days ago and it’s ALL Bart does in his spare time. It sounds like your policy is a carbon copy of mine so a toy like this is unusual. He’s 10 and I knew it was not a killing game so it was a while before I got curious and picked it up to see what it was about. It was the old Mario Bros classic stuff. But that little voice still scolds me because it’s still violent on some level. But he’s ten, for pete’s sake. In two years he’ll be old enough to learn archery and have aslingshot. But gentleness is always best and I have to be careful what I condone.

    And so the struggle continues in my mind.

    Among Bart’s friends we are known as the boring house because there is no Wii or other electronic stimulation. We don’t have cable and there’s no toy guns or fun stuff. I guess ye olde imagination is a thing of antiquity. Bart gets it though and he’s usually glad about my policies and will turn off the TV when something is violent or inappropriate. Maybe because the rules are a little more lax at his dad’s house and he has learned to appreciate ‘real’ fun over the electronic variety.

    In the end I let him play with the game and reminded him that kicking and ‘powing’ things is still violent. He’s not exactly begging me for one and when it’s gone he’ll go happily back to catching bugs and riding bikes instead.

    Kudos to you and good luck on breaking the kiddo into the next level of desensitization.

  17. Tootsie Farklepants

    I don’t think any of my kids would have sat through a movie at 18 months!

  18. AB

    Yeah – 18 months is too young. I felt guilty and questioned my judgement letting Jaxon watch it at 4 – but he was definitley ready for it. He has an amazing grasp of the fact that movies are stories and not real (at least the ones he watches!) Still – I wonder what people think about me letting my 4 year old watch PG-13 movies!!!

  19. Rebecca F.

    I had kids who were not exposed to much either. Surprisingly the fantasy stuff had very little impact on them. They could easily tell the difference between real and not. The not real was just entertaining. My daughter would have been more impacted by the story of the loss of a pet than any of the Star Wars……

    Good luck. Either way, he’ll turn out fine. Too little weapons and suspense never hurt anybody. ūüôā

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