Recently, Rockstar Games released the most anticipated game of the year, Grand Theft Auto V. In its first four days on the market, the game grossed over 1 billion dollars. Yes, I said 1 billion, and no, that is not a typo. The game is likely to win many awards this year and Rockstar should be proud of the game they created. The problem is that a large portion of the population playing the game isn’t actually mature enough to be playing it.
When I went to Walmart to pick up my copy of the game, I saw a mother with a child no more than 11 years old purchasing the same game. When the clerk mentioned that the game was rated mature 17+ for reasons such as “Intense Violence” and “Nudity”, just to name a few, the mother said “It’s fine.” She proceeded to purchase the game, handed it to her son, and they happily walked out of the store. I question the morality of that scenario.
A few weeks later, I still find myself bewildered at the decision making of that mother. It is quite disturbing that this is even a debate in our world today. Parents knowingly allow their children to play video games that are inappropriate for their age, but are oblivious to the negative effects that they are having on their child. The video game industry is not the one who should be blamed for making these games. Every game released clearly states the recommended age for that game. The parents are responsible for buying the game for their child with no knowledge of the detrimental effects it has on them.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing video games. This is not out of the ordinary, as statistics show that 97% of children play video games, as of 2008 (Pew Internet 1). My mother monitored the games that I was playing at all times and did not allow me to own a mature rated game, or any shooting game for that matter, until she believed I was mature enough. This came at the age of 16, where she decided that if I was able to own and operate an automobile, I was old enough to play games like Halo. Growing up, those rules seemed fair enough to me and they were not much of a hassle. I enjoyed playing other games like Mario Kart and Pokémon.
In fact, games like the two mentioned above make up a large portion of the video game industry. As of 2012, 45% of the video games released were rated “E” for everyone. Only 9% were rated “M” for mature (ESRB 1). With those numbers in mind, five of the top ten best-selling games from 2012 were rated “M”. The point I am trying to make is that the video game industry is packed with a broad spectrum of games to choose from, but children continuously resort to “M” rated games. So why are half of the best-selling games this previous year rated “M” when there are clearly many other, suitable options available? The answer is quite simple. Our children are exposed to a variety of violence throughout their childhood, whether it be physical violence, bullying, etc. that they eventually become accustomed to it. They adapt it into their normal lives and urge to experiment with it in the form of video gaming.
At such a young age, children are not mature enough to know the difference between fiction and reality. If they are allowed to freely run around shooting people, stealing cars, and robbing banks in a virtual world, will they be able to avoid that in reality? Parents know their children the best, so it is up to them to answer that question. Regardless, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure the games being played are appropriate for your child’s maturity level. Inappropriate games deceive the minds of children and the best way to prevent that is by avoiding the games completely.
A typical “M” rated game contains intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and strong language, among other grueling things. Even a large portion of teenagers are too immature to play a game like that, though exceptions will always exist. A comparison to movie and television violence seems very appropriate here. If parents restrict their children from watching movies and television shows that they deem too violent, then surely watching AND performing the acts of violence on a video game undoubtedly should be restricted at all costs.
When children play these games, they’re introduced to all of the above topics at a very young age. An age in which the child is too immature to handle these things. They’ll learn vulgar language and merge it into their vocabulary. A study performed by BYU University in 2011 found that an exposure to vulgar language through both media and video games results in an increased usage of vulgar language, due to the fact that hearing the profanity arouses a belief that it is an acceptable form of vocabulary. The exposure to language also causes an increase in physical and verbal aggression (BYU 1). They’ll witness sexual activity at way too early of an age, causing them to be more interested and resulting in an early sex life. They’ll commit acts of violence virtually and practice violence regularly outside of their virtual life. In fact, statistics found in a study performed by Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olsen (both with PhDs) show that aggression and bullying in both male and female youths increase with the playing of mature games. 44.4% of boys admitted to being in a physical fight, and 51% of those boys said that they play “M” rated games, compared to only 28% of non-“M” gamers. 20.9% of females reported being in a physical fight, and 40% of those females said they play “M” rated games compared to 14% who don’t (Kutner 22). These studies were run on all sorts of behaviors, and the numbers came back with mature games having a strong impact.
As I have grown older, I’ve played shooting games almost constantly. It’s amazing how addictive they can become and how aggressive they make me while playing them. On multiple occasions I find myself screaming profanity at the television screen. I am glad that I wasn’t exposed to this as a child as it would have had a harmful effect on me. Being older, I can clearly understand that it is only a game and move on. I can simply walk away from it and realize how foolish I sound. For children, this is difficult because the early exposure tricks their minds into thinking that it is alright to scream at the television. They don’t know any better, so unless a parent is there to scold them, the action continues. This is why violent games are so harmful to children.
As I mentioned earlier, none of the games I played as a child were violent and shooting games were out of the question. I can’t thank my mom enough for that. As a solution to this problem, I suggest to all parents that they do some research before buying a game for their son or daughter. With today’s technology, it is very simple to find out exactly what your kid will be playing before you buy it. Make sure the game is appropriate for their age and lacks things such as intense violence and strong language. This is the key to stopping your kids from playing “M” rated games. If my mother made it work for me, I’m sure you can make it work too.
I understand that certain people are mature at an early age and their parents allow them to play the games for that reason. There are always exceptions to a rule such as this and I agree with those people. The parents I disagree with are those who counter by saying that their 10 year old is mature enough to go around killing people and listening to swear words without being harmed in the slightest manner. All of the statistics I provided earlier clearly show that these games cause an increase in aggression, which will lead to violent acts. They show that an exposure to vulgar language leads to the acceptance of the words into their vocabulary. Still oblivious to the facts, more argue saying that the games haven’t caused their child to be more aggressive, and they never hear them swear. The problem with that counterargument is that parents are not with their children every minute of the day, so do they know whether or not they swear? Or do they know if they bully others at school? The answer is no, they don’t. So though the counterargument is possible in cases in which the child is a little bit older, younger children will undoubtedly be harmed by playing violent video games.
At the end of the day, parents need to pay attention to what games their children are playing. Parents should be more involved with the games their kids play, and explain to them what is okay and what is not okay. Remember, you are the teacher, not a friend. If your kid gets mad at you for not getting him the latest Grand Theft Auto, then you are doing your job right.
For all you parents who are doing a god job with monitoring your child’s gaming life, I applaud you. For those who are allowing their children to play “M” rated games, it’s time for a change.
BYU News. Profanity in TV & Video Games Linked to Teen Aggression. 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. http://news.byu.edu/archive11-oct-profanity.aspx
Entertainment Software Rating Board. Rating Category Breakdown. 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. http://www.esrb.org/about/categories.jsp
Kutner, Lawrence and Olsen, Cheryl. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. 2008. http://videogames.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=003627
Pew Internet & American Life Project. Teens, Video Games and Civics. 16 Sept. 2008. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Teens-Video-Games-and-Civics/01-Summary-of-Findings.aspx