E is for Violence

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A Dad’s Struggle with Violent Video Games

By Jorge Hernandez

When my daughter Sabrina was born, ten years ago, Barney, the purple talking dinosaur, was the rage for kids along with Elmo, the red Muppet.  I swore back then, before she was born, that I would not submit her to that type of empty entertainment.  As you would guess, I failed miserably.  By the time she was one, she had a mini VHS library (remember those) on Barney and Elmo.   In the end it wasn’t all that bad because she learned about friendship and having fun with other kids along with many other harmless age appropriate subjects.

Today, however, with the introduction of the Playstation, X-Box and Wii, I yearn for the days of Barney and Elmo. My son who will be eight in January has a Playstation and Wii and I find it a constant battle to keep the violence in the games – even the “E for Everyone” games – to a minimum. My parents who are Cuban and lived a modest life style could never afford the “Atari” games back when I was a teen, so I resorted to the only other option left: playing football or basketball outside with my neighborhood buddies.

Now, I notice something I never thought would happen – the kids have disappeared from the neighborhood!  I know they’re there, because during Halloween seven hundred of them show up at my door. Either they are being bused or they’re being held captive by something or someone. My guess is the gaming consoles are to blame.

To add insult to injury, my mother-in-law, who now watches over the kids while my wife and I work, says to me the other day, “You need to speak to Dariel because I will not have him playing those violent games on the Playtation (Spanish for Playstation), while he is with me”.  She added, “Then they wonder about all the violence in the world”.  Is she right?  Is the gaming industry somehow contributing to the escalation of violence in society or worse, are the kids being desensitized to the moral implications or social norms established over decades of reform and warnings against such behavior?

Maybe. Maybe not.  What I can tell is every time my son see’s a “Call of Duty” commercial he starts jumping up and down begging me to buy it.  And just about every time we play together in the house, he rather play some sort of “fighting game” with weapons of mass destruction, before playing a game of basketball.  When we talk to him about the violence in these games, on TV and in the movie theater, we try to explain that it’s all fake and only for entertainment.  His response is what worries me – “Yea, I know, It’s just a game” but violence is never just a game.

In the end, parents have very little control over the influence of violence in our children’s lives. We can’t wrap them in a protective shell from peers, games, commercials, the news, the movies and even the comics and music who all play a role in the propagation of violence. We could try and end up going crazy or we could move to Siberia -wait do they have internet? Is there a solution? Tune in for the answer in my next post “Parent’s Option Against Violence”.

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