Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Another Brick in the Wall

My wife related to me a story that happened to her today.

This morning we attended BrainyBoy's Thanksgiving program at his school. He goes to a private religious school, so I was privileged to hear him reciting Psalm 100 with a few other of his classmates. After the program we went to lunch and from there I went back to work briefly and he and my wife ran some errands. In the midst of their travels, they went by Target and were looking through the toy section. Since my son wants a GameBoy for Christmas, they were discussing possible cartridges that he might like.

Also in the section was a grandmotherly type, looking for an XBox cartridge for her 7-year-old grandson (the same age as BrainyBoy). She must have been rather clueless about such things, and, spying the game the lady was examining a helpful salesperson came up to help her.

Grandma was perusing Grand Theft Auto III Double Pack for XBox. (You can probably see where I'm headed with this)

Salesperson: Um, ma'am, I'm not sure that game is right for your grandson.

Grandma: Well, he says all his friends at school have it..

Salesperson: You can see there's a rating system on the package that tells which games are suitable for which age group. "E" you see is for Everyone, "T" is for Teens and "M" if for Mature audiences. [GTA is rated "M"]

To make a long story short, Grandma hemmed and hawed about it for awhile and bought it anyway.

Oh, yeah, she also said it wasn't available for for this kid's Gamecube (!!!) so she had to get it for his XBox (!!!).


Y'know, where do I start?

First of all I can maybe give Grandma the benefit of the completely technical ignorant. Some people just couldn't tell the difference between a splatterfest like GTA and Chutes and Ladders if their life depended on it. If the highest technical achievement you ever mastered was the iron, then hey, I'm not going to get bent out of shape.

But thankfully (and hopefully) only a very few people are like that. For everyone else, there's no excuse. Any logical, rational person should be able to see and understand the difference between an "E" game like Mario Brothers and an "M" game like GTA. One contains violence, the other doesn't. Everyone should be able to tell the difference.

Unfortunately there are some that just don't care, or think it's important that their kids not be exposed to certain material. Are the persuasion powers of kids these days that great, or is it only exceeded by the apathy levels of their parents (and grandparents)? I think it's the latter - while kids are great for whining and needling about needing this or that, it's the parent's responsibility not to filter out the noise and listen to their kids. And to understand that every decision - every decision they make concerning their kids is vital, and can resonate throughout their entire life.

If Grandma knew that sonnyboy - seven! Did you hear me? He's seven!! - gets whatever he wants for the electronic babysitter which means that Mom and Dad are willing and probably relieved not to be burdened with the nuances of their son's upbringing. And we see that all the time - "all my friends have it!" That may or may not be precisely true, but we see it all over.

So sonnyboy will probably get the game for Christmas from Grandma, fire it up that afternoon and proceed to splatter hookers and pedestrians all over the street, then return to second grade - second grade - when school gets back in.

What will he be like when he's 10? 15? 21? I hope his parents are wondering the same thing...

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