Alternate Title: Yes, all of the crap they say is true.
About two years ago, the peer pressure in my neighborhood got to be too much for me. Not the kid on kid peer pressure- the adult parenting type.
A little background on me: I am a technology geek. I love my gadgets. I can’t imagine life without my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, or my Kindle. I am working on a doctorate in Ed Tech. I was a video game store manager for five years before I became a teacher.
But. When parents came to my counter to purchase GTA: Vice City for their kids, I would give them “what’s wrong with you?” type lectures. You did not buy an M game from me for your little kids without a side of shame. The idea of kids playing violent, inappropriate video games just made me uncomfortable- even in my childless early 20’s.
Fast forward a few years. When my son was eight (!) years old, he was the only kid in the neighborhood without an air soft gun. He was the only kid in the neighborhood without Call of Duty on the XBox. We didn’t even have an XBox. We stuck with the Wii because it was more kid-friendly.
The other parents in our neighborhood started to roll their eyes at me. I had to pull my son from one friend’s house because I walked in to find him playing Call of Duty. I felt trapped. I started to wonder: is it me? Am I turning into one of those helicopter parents that I find insufferable? I want my kids to find their own way, make good choices without my input, etc., etc., right?
So finally, when my son was at the point where he wasn’t allowed in any neighborhood friend’s house, I caved. I feel ashamed to admit it now, but I did. And for two years, I allowed him to play James Bond games and Halo games. I still didn’t allow Call of Duty. I felt like I had compromised.
It still felt wrong, though. I would be sitting in the family room reading while he sat like a zombie in front of the television- Xbox Live with Halo Reach. The sounds I was bombarded with were enough to make me squirm. When I would look up from my book to see what was going on on-screen, I didn’t like what I saw. The multiplayer campaigns were downright brutal.
Over the past two years, my son has become more aggressive. Just fourth grade boy stuff, right?
So. Sandy Hook happened. I was a wreck. I know I am not the only one, but I just felt pain to my core for those parents and teachers. I felt like I needed to do something productive in the face of what happened. Something that had been needling at me for two years.
I sat my son down and we talked about his games. I told him how I was feeling. We didn’t talk about Sandy Hook, but we did talk about the fact that I messed up when I copped to neighborhood pressure. I apologized to him, and I took every M game in the house (aside from my copy of Alice and my hubby’s copy of Skyrim- we hid them) to GameStop and traded them in. I added money to the total and let my son go on a $100 shopping spree to make up for all I was taking from him. I told him that he could choose E games and T games that did not include violence. Music and language in skateboarding and racing games don’t bother me. I have a pretty bad mouth, to be honest, so I’d be a hypocrite.
The change. Oh my goodness. I can’t even begin to explain it. His aggression has all but disappeared. The video game addiction is still there, of course- Minecraft has ensured that. But at least he is being creative rather than destructive. And yes- I do limit his video game time.
There is research out there now that shows that more video game playing equals more aggression. Also, even in adults, when people spend time as an avatar, they start to take on the characteristics of the avatar in their real life. If their avatar is tall and muscular, adults will be more confident in real life. For real.
So, my unscientific test was successful, which is scary.
I am reading an excellent book right now that explains this better than I can:
Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson
If you have had experiences like this, I would love to hear about them…
Have a great day!