Ask Amy: Parents stick to their guns over violent games

August 22, 2011

DEAR AMY:

My husband and I have two sons, ages 9 and 12. They have been asking to purchase video games that are rated T (teen, age 13) and M (mature, age 17). The games that they want are combat-type/shooting/killing/violent ones.

We feel that a game that involves shooting and killing another human being is not fun or entertaining. We explained to our sons that there are men and women in the military fighting for our country who are actually living these experiences and it is not a “game.”

Our boys tell us that, “all the other kids have and play these video games.” They cite examples of kids as young as 5 years old in our neighborhood playing them.

We realize that we have no control over what other kids are allowed to do in their homes and we realize that our own boys are playing them when they are visiting their friends.

However, we have resisted letting them have them in our house. We feel the constant exposure to these types of video games is desensitizing kids to violence.

Are we really the only parents left in America that do not allow these games in our home, as our sons would have us believe? Should we continue to hold our ground? Should I continue to listen to the constant begging for the games, along with being accused of being the “meanest mom”?

Our boys are good kids, get good grades and are active in sports. Their time spent playing video games is actually very minimal. They are not “addicted” to games, but they still want to be able to own violent games like their friends.

Should we give in, knowing they are playing them elsewhere anyway? -- Peace-loving Parents

DEAR PARENTS: The issue in your household is common to most thoughtful households, despite what your boys tell you. The question, too, is one of control.

As they age and mature, your sons must feel that they are in control of some aspects of their lives, and you should mentor them to make good choices, and acknowledge it when they do.

When they agitate for a violent video game, help them to explore alternatives. (One thing I love about “Guitar Hero” is that this game is action-packed, interactive, clever, fun and cool.)

I applaud your decision to keep violent video games out of your house. If this makes you “mean,” then, oh well, you can handle it, right?

You can tell your kids, “The only guns allowed in this household are the ‘guns’ we are sticking to.”

A great Web site helping parents of kids of all ages is www.commonsensemedia.org. Editors review games and movies and give thoughtful ratings, recommendations and alternatives.

A search on the site for “violent video games” should give you more “ammunition” for your ongoing conversation with your kids.

DEAR AMY:

My parents are celebrating their 60th anniversary later this year. My sister-in-law (my brother’s wife) has a guest list of her family (30 people), along with many suggestions.

My parents want something small, with only their friends and closer family members, but my sister-in-law insists on inviting her family. My brother should deal with it but he won’t.

Money is not an issue. My parents just want something intimate.

My sister-in-law has taken over almost all holidays, and after 10 years of this, I’ve just about had it. -- Annoyed

DEAR ANNOYED: Your parents should celebrate their anniversary the way they want to, and if they need you to provide some firm interference to help them have a small gathering, you should tell your sister-in-law, “Mom and Dad want to keep the guest list small, so we’re going to limit this to immediate family, spouses and friends.”

Make a statement. Don’t ask for feedback. And stand your ground.

DEAR AMY: “Unwilling Participant” wrote about how nasty, confusing and consistently angry her sister is. That sounds exactly like how my sister was.

Her doctor treated her for depression. The change was amazing. She is now happy and delightful to be with. -- Relieved Sister

DEAR RELIEVED: If “Unwilling’s” sister suffers from depression, treatment would make a positive difference, to her and her family.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2011 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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