Games and our Kids: Silence isn’t always Golden.

Knowing what our kids are playing and taking a second to think of the implications, now and later.

Well, I don’t know where to start on this because I don’t know where it would finish or even if it could finish without writing a novel.

‘It’s awesome! If you finish the level quick enough then you can kill the baby when its still sleeping and upgrade your gun!” This came out of the mouth of a six-year-old child I was seeing as a counsellor. I had been called into a school to help improve the behaviour of some challenging wee ones. To give a bit of context, I’d barely sat down and asked how the week had gone so far. The game is called Duck Hunt (search duck hunt horror – if you see the red eyed dog, you have found a version) and he put an impressive amount of energy behind reenacting how to move and shoot with speed and accuracy. Now, my generation will remember that game as one where you shot ducks as they flew across the screen. Its not that one! I didn’t believe what he was telling me at first, so I looked into it and quickly found what he was playing. He was right! It starts quite harmlessly as a basic shoot’em up (birds) game, before it quickly enters a room with a family all sat in a lounge. Depending on which family member you shoot will dictate which gun you upgrade to. The graphics are damned realistic too. This is just a game that this six-year-old fills a bit of time with and far from the worst he plays. The exception, absolutely not!

I am a counsellor working with kids from 5 upwards as well as the grown-up work I do. I have been doing this for over a decade and therefore believe I have a pretty fair reflection on what is going on purely from experience rather than from afar in a research paper. I have seen a direct correlation with behaviour challenges to the games used. I intentionally didn’t say technology as that isn’t the case at all. Demands on parents are increasing and work patterns have changed massively. On my way back from a run or the gym at about 6.30am day cares are already receiving their first drop offs.

With this increased busyness and kids that by the very fact that they are kids are a bundle of fun, energy and thirst for time and entertainment. Digital devices are gold for keeping young ones still and quiet. They are however, far from safe. Any parent will tell you noise (within reason) is the norm, but silence – that will get me jumping up to see if the boys have drawn on the wall or hand fishing in the toilet. It is kind of like that with kids and games, just because they are out of your hair for 5 mins don’t start celebrating until you know for sure what they are up to.

Firstly, I am completely pro technology and certainly see its abundant benefits. Having access to information is invaluable, especially when in academic land and completing research.

This post is raising a flag on how technology is used by our kids. It’s a bit of common sense really, but I get how life can result in a few blind spots.

  1. First, have a think on what your values and beliefs are.
  2. Explore what they may look, and sound like for you and then your kids.
  3. Then take a look at the games that they have, regardless of age. You pick what is appropriate for your kids not the games company or censorship committees. Google the highest-ranking games in the world right now- well keep tracking back over the last 10 years- it’s the same result. Every one of the top games is a shoot ‘em up and the graphics are bloody realistic.  Grand Theft Auto is a cracking example. Pull over, once you have evaded police, and then kill as many people as possible to get some money. You get even more money depending on how creative you are in your murder. Not to mention the rewards for killing female characters.  Then ask, how does this look compared to my image of the values and beliefs I thought of earlier. What is it normalising and desensitising our children to? As an ex police officer, I have seen my fair share of the dark side, murder and violence. Maybe that’s why I might be a tad ‘sensitive’ and ‘overprotective’, or maybe not.
  4. Take a second. You are at a barbeque with some friends. You see your wee angel playing with a few other wee angels. You listen and look a bit closer. One of the other kids pretends to shoot your angel in the head with a gun whilst shouting ‘take that biatch!’. In the meantime, the other kids want in on the action and pretend to kick the crap out of your little angel because they too can get some points if they inflict a bit of damage too. They then turn on one of the other kids shouting, “now you can be the police” we are gonna f.&k you up! Would you smile and nod to one of your friends and smile before sharing a “kids aye” moment? I think not.
  5. Fortnite– the latest global phenomena game- is not unheard of by any means with many of my young and old clients.

Social media and the role in the lives of our young ones is a beast in itself that I’m sure I’ll talk about at some point. When it comes to computer games, it is really simple. How does the game look compared to your own family values and beliefs? We all make our own decisions, and these are my thoughts. They are however thoughts based on working with young ones for nearly 20 years and the last 10 specifically with child and adolescent mental health. I absolutely see a direct correlation between behaviours and the types of games and amount of time spent playing them.

As parents, but as adults and a society we really need to take as much responsibility of the safety and wellbeing of our children and future when they are sat in front of screens as we do when they are not. We can’t be too surprised or p’d off with the kids behaving in a way that is pretty out there. We need to step up first and then see what happens with behaviours and some very shaky wellbeing.