Just the other day, I was commenting how my 3-year-old son Seth was scaring himself by watching/not watching The Mummy Returns at a Christmas party. He would turn away, saying it scared him. Then he’d peek at it again. I took him into another room.
We strongly limit what movies and TV shows are played around our children. It’s the reason we haven’t seen the latest Star Wars movie – because there is no way to watch it without Seth seeing and hearing some of it. We’re not Luddites; we just feel he is too young for such violence. When he is ready for the more adult themes of this movie, we’ll watch it together.
We feel the same way about video games. After all, some are just too violent for youngsters.
California’s legislators reacted to some of these games by passing a law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. Before it could kick in Jan. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte suspended the law on the grounds it probably wouldn’t survive a First Amendment test, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Whether you agree or not, the judge is probably right. The problem becomes that such laws then could be written to limit access to music, DVDs and even books on the same grounds. Then again, some states limit children’s access to porn magazines so maybe the precedent already exists.
This creates something of a conundrum for parents. We don’t want to be in the position of limiting free press, but at the same time we don’t want our kids or our neighbor’s kids playing video games that encourage death and mayhem.
As Renee at LAPD Wife writes about Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, “I am horrified at the thought of children high-fiving each other every time they kill a cyber-cop.”
So what should parents do? Ironically, I was contacted by Common Sense Media, which reviews movies, games, TV shows, etc. on age-appropriateness, on Monday.
I have been aware of this group for some time, but have held off writing about them. The group has been controversial because it aggressively supports laws such as the one Judge Whyte just suspended.
But it seems to me that this site could serve as a great tool for parents who don’t want their kids watching movies high in sexual content or to be playing games where they dismember opponents. In that context it is just a tool and a valid one at that.
There is a big problem left standing, though: parents who believe it is perfectly okay for their kids to partake in violent media. At the moment, there does not seem to be a legal remedy that will succeed. The only real solution may be a cultural shift, which I believe is long overdue.
Common Sense also maintains a blog.