The Videogame and The Baby.

Let’s get right into it – no pulling punches.

My husband plays videogames.  I’m not surprised, nor was I unaware of this fact when I fell in love with him.  Much of the groundwork of our relationship was laid when we played World of Warcraft together as friends.  And I will give him so very much credit; since we have been together, he has dialed back his gaming time to a fantastic degree.  He still likes to play when I’m sleeping, or when I’m gone at work, but when I’m home and we’re together… we are together.  There has never really been a time in the last three and a half years that I wished he would just put down his stupid game and come spend time with me.

Enter: baby.TBRonan112409-2

Ronan has added a whole new function to the equation.  We’ve all heard stories about those parents that stuff their kids in a closet in order to play games in peace, or that have neglected to feed their children for weeks while participating in a raid.  There is no fear of that here, in this household.  There is no competition between Ronan and a videogame.

There is, however, some troubling overlap.  And this is where Brock and I don’t see eye to eye.

I may be a little strong-willed in my beliefs.  There are certain things I hold to be true above all else, and I insist on making it so.  I don’t subscribe to the school of thought on allowing my child to cry it out.  I did not feed my son solid foods before his sixth month.  I will nurse until he is one year old.  And… I don’t think children should see violence, even before they are old enough to recognize it for what it is.  I don’t know why I feel this way, I don’t even know if it’s a relevant fear.  I have these images in my mind of children learning through what they see… isn’t that the point of educational television?  If he can learn to count to ten in Spanish from Dora the Explorer, couldn’t he possibly learn that a sharp object can be used to stab someone and make them bleed?  What do we have to gain from allowing him to learn that?

So, I instituted a rule.  No violent videogames or TV shows to be played/watched/seen when Ronan is within viewing distance.  I didn’t really think that it was a bad rule, and Brock didn’t really object.  We’ve turned off movies that were too graphic and waited to watch them when Ronan was in bed.  We’ve covered his eyes if there was a part of an episode that we thought was inappropriate.  We’ve been sticking to it, and that made me happy.

Enter: Assassin’s Creed 2.

Brock had the luxury of playing the first installment of this console game while I was still pregnant, and there were no ‘rules’.   Assassin’s Creed is a unique game in that there is a large amount of content that is decidedly non-violent.  Much of the time in-game is spent exploring, spying, hunting treasure, and pushing the storyline forward.  There are, however, large portions of the game that involve killing people; come on, now… it’s called ASSASSIN’S Creed.

Our typical scenario occurs when Brock is running around in-game, minding his own business and doing one of the many fight-free objectives.  Ronan plays nearby on the floor, having little to no interest in the colors and shapes on the television screen.  Suddenly, a fight breaks out in-game, and Brock is intently doing battle.  There are swords and fists flying, blood is splattering, and people are yelling out in agony.  Ronan immediately becomes VERY interested, and can’t peel his eyes from the screen.  I look over, notice what is going on, and bring it to Brock’s attention that he’s allowing Ronan to watch digital people be killed.

This same scenario occurs several times over the course of an evening.  I start to get frustrated, because I don’t think Brock takes it seriously, nor is he paying enough attention to his surroundings to notice what he is subjecting his child to.  Brock gets upset because he thinks it’s my responsibility to “distract” Ronan whenever he gets into a fighting situation that I don’t want Ronan to see.  He told me that he doesn’t think it’s such a big deal for Ronan to watch what’s going on, and if I’m the one that’s worried about it, I should be the one dealing with it.  I feel that if he’s not attentive enough to be sure he’s not killing people while Ronan is watching, he shouldn’t be playing while Ronan is awake.

Enter:  The fight.

Brock and I had our first knock-down, drag-out over this one.  I don’t really know which of us is right or wrong.  I don’t know how to reconcile the difference in opinion.  I just know that I don’t want my kid knifing some other kid in the park, standing over him, and saying, “I live by the creed.”

Facebook Comments
  • Dana

    i have the same rule for brendan about no violent vids in front of the boy, its a good rule stick to it!

  • Old Hat

    You are right and Brock is mistaken here. “Stick to your guns” is probably an inappropriate cliche to use here, but you know what I mean. Children are sponges. They just soak this stuff in. Especially the wrong things. I think that has a spiritual root, myself. I’ll refrain from boring you with stories of my kids and offering as evidence my experiences unless you indicate an interest in my stories.

    But for whatever my opinion may be worth, as the father of 4, Brock is wrong here. Parenting is hard work and damned inconvenient. Doing it right now will pay big dividends later though.

    Hang in there, Beauty.

    Old Hat

  • Stacy SMith

    We have the same rule @ our house. Daniel plays Call of Duty, and Kailyn has been running around the house pretending to play with a “shooting gun”-as she calls it. I pulled the plug on that really quick. You are completely right in this. Brock has NO argument.

  • I think you’re right. Kids DO learn from violence. And Brock already agreed not to watch/play violent things in front of Ronan–so why isn’t he sticking to the bargain? Good for you for standing up for yourself.

  • Richard Cook

    Hey Mandy,

    I’ve been a reader for a long time, but this is my first comment.

    To start, I don’t have kids and it’s very possible my feelings will change when I have one of my own. However, violance is not the issue, the issue is distinguishing reality from fantasy. I know that I personally have been playing violent video games since before I could walk.

    Many children will do “violent” things to other people until they understand what they are doing. A kid that hits needs to be hit back at least once so they understand it. Really, knowing that you can stab somone with a knife will make someone bleed, or die, is not a bad thing. I would guess that 99.9% of all people know this. How many of them stab?

    Kids can learn many thing from video games: problem solving, logical thinking, hand eye coordination, reading…to name a few. If your son is captivated by the flash of colors and beautiful animation, let him watch. Let him see daddy solve problems. Let his imagination run wild.

    He is going to learn everything you shelter him from as soon as he goes to school. Wouldn’t you rather be the one to expose him than some kid who really is naturally violent?

    As long as he isn’t scared, let him watch. Let him absorb the complexity, and help him learn.

    PS: I realised I hadn’t said it earlier. You have a great blog and a beautiful son.

  • Ben Kuhl

    Mandy,

    I read your blog often and yet have decided to post here as well for the first time. Naturally given the topic, how can I not comment?

    Ricky – I think it’s important to note that kids repeat words they learn from their parents or hear for the first time. They can and will repeat anything no matter what it is because they don’t know different. It’s very possible that they could pick up a knife and do something dangerous. Would you want your kid to stab himself by mistake so he learns a knife is not something to be played with? No… or at least, I hope not.

    I have to say I’ve never thought about how I would want my child to respond. While they will eventually understand everything, there are things that they are not ready for until they’re older. It’s the same reason you wouldn’t let a 6 year old watch a sex scene in a movie. It’s exposure at a young age that can be very detrimental.

    Now to the question at hand, would I allow my child to watch me play a game like that? To be fair I haven’t seen screenshots of the game. If it was very realistic I wouldn’t want him watching. I know children learn everything from what they see. To be honest I think God’s given mothers a distinct connection with the child and such a pure love that I think that I would go with whatever my wife would say on the subject if it was clearly a violent game or even a questionable game. I wouldn’t mind my child watching a game like Starcraft 2 or something, would I allow him to watch Diablo 3? No.

    At the same time, I know that gaming for me is a great way to wind down from the day. Men are designed to be the protectors of the family, there’s an attraction/desire we get from smashing the face of an enemy in a game. I think it’s about finding the right time to play. But I do think that every man needs a time after work to wind down.

  • Stacy

    Richard-

    I totally disagree with you. Mandy isn’t stating that video games are BAD. She’s saying that violent video games ARE. Yes, there are alot of education video games. But there is a *HUGE* difference between that and something like Call of Duty (where you actually can see people being shot in the head).

    Kids can have nightmares from watching violent things like that. Video games like COD have ADULT language. They scream curse words. I know I don’t want my three year old to be screaming, “I am going to f*cking kill you!” Like what that game says.

    And Mandy’s son will probably know about all this stuff when he goes to school. BUT he is not even a year old yet! Come on! That’s a HUGE difference between a year old and let’s say…10. He doesn’t know what real and whats not at this age.

  • Richard Cook

    Stacy,

    I stated that if he wasn’t scared then let him watch. By all means if he is scared of what’s happening on screen then there is no excuse for Brock to be playing it, none at all. But as stated, he isn’t afraid, he is captivated.

    Adult language is something every child of nearly every age is going to hear. There is no escaping it. It is a learning process to teach them not to say those words. Again, I would say it is better for them to be exposed at home, and taught properly rarther than calling their teacher a word they learned while playing at school.

    I have yet to play *any* game that wasn’t educational. There are always things a child can learn as long as they are trying. At that age though, he won’t be playing, he likely doesn’t understand what’s happening on screen.

    At this point all he knows is that daddy is having lots of fun and is happy. He knows the screen is showing a lot of animation and color, and he likes it.

    You are trying to shelter a child from aspects of life he is going to encounter soon (in the next few years). All of the dinsey movies have violence in them, along with some images people would deem “scary”. Should he be stopped from watching Snow White because of the witch?

    Don’t shelter him, guide him. Let him understand the world and be happy about it ^_^

  • Chris

    Hey Mandy,

    I have to say I agree with Richard on this. As long as the child is scared I don’t think there is anything wrong with him watching violent video games. Video games will always be MUCH more stimulating to a child’s mind then watching TV ever will be.

    I also think that trying to shelter the child from this is a futile effort to begin with. Even if you followed this rule and never showed the child anything related to violence, the minute he starts school he is going to be inundated with it, and there is really nothing you can do about that. I think it would be much better for him to see these kinds of things at home first, so you can explain whats going on. I am sure your explanations would be much more moral than what his classmates are going to say.

    I firmly believe that violence is an inherent part of our society, and not one that is going to go away anytime soon. If you limited your child from seeing any of this he will start a step behind everyone else socially, unless you live in Utah. I remember teasing kids in school whose parents didn’t allow them to watch R rated movies.

    My parents initially started off with a similar rule to what you have, but in relation to guns. They decided they would never buy us toy guns to play with because they didn’t want us being violent. So we went outside and whacked each other with sticks. After a few evenings of this, and patched up wounds, my parents decided it was much better to let us pretend to shoot each other with toy guns then beat the crap out of each other with sticks.

    But hey I have no kids so take my opinion for what its worth.

    Chris

  • Ben Kuhl

    Ricky – Hopefully the child is not being confronted with death/violence over the next few years. If so, then there are probably serious problems with the parenting.

  • Ricky and Chris –

    I think one of the things you two might be forgetting, or possibly are just entirely unaware of is – a child’s innocence is precious and too quickly lost already. Yes, he’s going to learn to swear, and yes he’s going to eventually see violence. But there is NO reason for us to introduce it to him at this early age. It is my responsibility to teach Ronan that there are some things that are unacceptable, but the natural course of parenting is to teach children when they become aware of such things. There is a massive difference between the violence seen in a Disney movie and the blood, violence and gore in an Assassin’s Creed game.

    I want you to keep in mind that I am saying that I don’t want my 9 month old infant watching these images, NOT that I am saying I don’t want my son to EVER play video games. We are not going to limit him from playing games or seeing movies. There are ESRB ratings on games for a reason, and I think they pertain to watching games as well as playing them. I fully agree with Ben that there is no difference in allowing a small child to see inappropriate sexual content and allowing them to see excessively violent visual information. Ronan will NOT be sheltered. He will be guided into watching material that is appropriate for his age.

    I understand where you are coming from, and I think it is all well and good to not want video games to be a scapegoat for society, or to deny the connection between violent games and violent children. The argument that gamers always make is that it is the PARENT’S responsibility to teach their children right from wrong, to prevent them from seeing and playing games they aren’t mature enough to handle. THAT is what I am doing – I am parenting my child. When a child isn’t old enough to know the difference between reality and imagination, what is acceptable and what is not – it would be irresponsible to allow him or her to be exposed to material as such. Perhaps he can’t understand what he’s seeing now, but no one knows how much children learn and absorb at this age. I would rather be safe than sorry.

  • wulfcry

    U will win the maternity game, But to games ‘Ouch’. I’ve been watching my nephew ‘age 6’ for a while and ‘As you already imply ‘ guidance is important to let kids understand the difference. But games with gore should be selected by the level of realism a kid looks at or play with, If Ronan start smacking his parents head with an object the level of ‘AUW’ is feld will tel you the rest. Overal kids age six “here in holland” more into racing games and iphones go figure and they pick up tech very fast. ‘uhuuh I feel old now’

  • Chris

    I can see, and agree to an extent, where you are coming from with not wanting the child to see this stuff at 9 months. If you were sitting the child down to watch a gory bloody movie as a means of entertainment for him, it wouldn’t be a good plan. However, in this case we are talking about the child catching glimpses of it while your husband is playing.

    I think that this is more of a problem with the fact that you don’t think the child should be seeing that kind of thing, while your husband doesn’t really think it makes a difference. Because there is no definitive evidence that violence on tv is the sole cause for a child turning out to be a serial killer when they age, this argument comes down to personal preference.

    I can see where you don’t want this at all. However, I can also see from your husbands perspective. He is a gamer, and you knew this ahead of time, which means a good deal of time is spent killing people. You have said yourself that you have never wished he played less now with the child being here, which means he has found a good balance. If he can’t play with the child around the only solution is to play by himself. This brings him away from you and the child, limiting his interaction and upsetting the happy balance he has now. I suppose you could say he should only play when the child is asleep, but with as much time as is spent taking care of the child, and leaving some time for you guys to enjoy some time together, I don’t see there being a whole lot of time left for him to play.

    This is a tough thing because I don’t ever see this argument going away for you two. You don’t see eye to eye on it. So one of you either resents the other for forcing a decision upon them, or you come to some compromise. Maybe only playing when it’s close to the child’s bedtime so he is too sleepy to pay attention? I am not really sure the best approach to that, not having kids, but i think you could come to some compromise.

  • yeah, i completely agree with you on this one mandy.

    we have these kind of age limits on games and movies for a reason, because kids can be affected by them, they’re not just there to be pointless.

    granted, there’s no scientific proof that watching or playing violent video games makes people more violent .. but noone wants to take that chance with their own child, right?

    you guys made a bargain, so both sides have to stick to it.

    good luck, i hope you get it sorted out soon!
    .-= Gemma´s last blog ..there’s gold in dreams. =-.

  • I am a little on the fence here. There are portions of Assassin’s Creed 2 where the violence and gore are I think too much for Ronan to handle. For example a seance where someone screaming in agony, with a dramatic zoom in of their face is probably a little too much for a child to handle. At this age a person’s face is the most recognizable object they can identify with.

    I don’t however think that the actual gameplay portion of assassinating someone is that bad. It’s just special sleep hug that puts people to sleep. I jump on their back and they fall fast asleep :D.

    Seriously I am fine with not playing the assassination missions. I do think that there is some kind of violence that is not OK for Ronan until later.

    Warner Brother violence however, I think is OK. Mario, Ratchet and Clank, Sonic, and Donkey Kong type of violence I think isn’t going to harm Ronan in any more than some of the older Bugs Bunny Violence harmed our parents when they were growing up. It’s Cartoony, it is obviously not real, and for the most part it is done for humor.

    Serious violence I think is bad; comical I think is OK.

    • I’m soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad we agree! Now, you wont have to sleep on the couch!

  • Lance

    There’s always going to be a protective line, the necessary paranoia of parenting. Ronan might have no problem with sleep hugs and the free red jelly that spills out afterward, but by the time he can deduce things and events, living by the creed won’t be such a good idea for Ronan.

    Can’t wait for AC3 though.