While I can’t tell you for sure whether or not you are a good parent, I have developed a short test to determine beyond any reasonable doubt whether or not you are a terrible parent. It just takes a moment to complete, but once you’re done you can finally know for sure whether you are just completely awful as a parent. Here’s the test:
- Do you buy your elementary-aged kids realistic, “Rated M for Mature” video games where people kill each other? ☐ Yes ☐No
There it was. Just one question! Ready to find out how you did? Here’s the answer key: If you answered “No,” there is at least a chance that you are a decent parent. However, if you answered “Yes,” you are a shitty, shitty parent. I’m not really into shaming people, but I think that in a case like this, shame is a perfectly appropriate thing for you to be feeling…. Just empirically, scientifically, objectively, and in all other ways—Shitty.This includes super realistic war games like “Call of Duty” and “Medal of Honor”–games where you get extra points and kill people quicker by shooting them through the head instead of in the chest. This includes popular games like “Grand Theft Auto,” “God of War,” “Dead Space,” etc…. Some might think that hyper-violent games like “Mortal Kombat” are okay because the violence is so over the top, but I can’t think of one reason why someone would want their third grader virtually shoving their hand into someone’s mouth and pulling out their spine. I realize some of you out there buy your kids games like “Halo” (and rationalize it because they are actually shooting aliens in the head instead of people), but these games are rated “M” for a reason. Behind the “M” rating it says, “17+ Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.” Yes, that says “Sexual Content.” Not that that should be the difference-maker…. How messed up is it that so many parents wouldn’t let their kids play a game containing virtual naked breasts, but they have no problem letting them pretend to blow people’s brains out? In college I played a game called “Tenchu: Stealth Assassins.” It was basically a game where you were a ninja, and you had to quietly kill a whole bunch of people. In the game, this was accomplished by staying in the shadows until people had their back to you, and then sneaking up and cutting their throat with one of your swords. I played this game so much that I started seeing the game play in other places–Like I would see someone turn their back to me, and I would briefly think, “Now would be a perfect time to run up behind him and do a stealth kill.” After this started happening, I figured it might be time for a little break…. And let me be clear, I’m NOT saying that playing these games turns people into killers. But if you happen to have a child that gets a thrill from the feeling of killing someone in a virtual context, and you pump that kid’s brain full of reinforcement…. I don’t know. It’s probably a “Chicken & Egg” situation…. but I think you’re asking for trouble. I will say this: Recently I was at a school teaching third graders about child abuse, and a kid raised his hand and told me about show he remembered seeing where a mother “slaughtered her kids, and then cooked them and ate them.” I was like, “Yeah…. that’s not really child abuse. That’s just a crazy murderer.” He kept raising his hand, so after the show I checked to see if he had a question that didn’t get answered. He didn’t. He just wanted to tell me that “If anyone tried to do child abuse to me, I would murder them. I’m not kidding–I would MURDER them. That or I would break about 100 of their bones. And then–if they were still alive–THEN I would tell an adult.” His eyes darted around in excitement as he told me about a pipe he had in his basement…. I spoke to the School Counselor about our disturbing conversation, and she told me that most of this boy’s conversations center around the very violent video games that he plays every day. If you are taking a developing mind, and giving your parental approval to the addition to that elementary-aged mind of games where your kid practices killing other people, you are an awful guardian. Just awful. I don’t care if “It’s his older brother’s game” or “She knows it’s just pretend.” Bull shit. Quit being a shitty parent. There is no excuse…. Just stop. But the good news is this: You don’t have to keep letting your kids play those games. Take them away. Sell them, and buy games that will help them get a better score on the ACT. And if you’re a parent that buys their kid these sorts of games and then my kid ends up playing those games at your house, I have a request: Stop being such a shitty parent. You’re the sort of parent who buys high school kids booze because you want to be “The Cool Mom.” The kids at those parties always end up hurting someone else. If my kid went over to your house and you let him watch “Scarface,” I’d be pissed as hell. Stop letting little kids play games that are designed for adults! Be a parent, not a peer.