Editor's note: This week the Supreme Court made a decision that took the responsibility of regulating video game sales to kids away from the government, leaving it largely in the hands of parents. Here is the way one Christian mom negotiated her way through that challenge.
When we first held our sweet newborn son, we knew we would protect this little one from the evil of the world, helping to develop in him the good and true. Fast forward 13 years. Now we have a teenage son surrounded by choices. The moment comes again and again when we must explain just why Andrew has to be the odd one out - the one person, for example, who is not going to own "Call of Duty: Black Ops."
Andrew is not so much interested in "Black Ops" as he is interested in being able to participate in the ubiquitous discussions about the game at school, at swim practice, wherever teen boys gather. He wants to be included. Who doesn’t?
I had the same experience in a way. I was not allowed to see "Star Wars" or watch some truly stellar television, like “CHiPs” for instance. Everyone else did, and they all talked about it. I couldn’t be part of it. It was mortifying.
So when to give in, and when to hold firm? To get more insight, I googled "Black Ops," looking for some reviews from Christian magazines or parenting sites. The closest I could come up with was a Christian Black Ops “clan” looking for more members so that they could play against each other with less of the usual exceedingly vulgar language that comes from random online players. Epic fail.
So then I skipped to the source of all wisdom - Facebook, of course. I asked for discerning Christian opinions on "Black Ops" and teens. Answers ranged from “Absolutely not - it’s violent and vulgar and can in no way edify,” to “Maybe giving it a try will help him learn to discern,” to “Relax, boys will be boys.” Seriously, not much help here, not because I don’t respect those who gave me their opinions, but because in the end it comes down to a very personal decision.
When Andrew was 3, he gained some older brothers in the form of two young men that we fostered for a while. John and Deng came from Sudan, two of the Lost Boys who had to escape their villages without the rest of their families. They survived, but many of their companions lost their lives along the way to soldiers, airplane bombs, wild animals and starvation. We told our children as much as we felt they could handle when they were young and we filled in more facts along the way as they grew older.
So a few years later, we just can’t allow into our home a game that turns killing (even if it’s a good soldier eliminating terrorists) into entertainment. A few days ago I gave a less heavy-handed version of that speech to a couple of his friends when they were over. What can I say? I’m a super-fun mom. First they said they disagreed, because in the game you are defending your country. I told them that someday they may be called to defend their country, but that I was pretty sure it won’t be fun. They then told me about relatives who had been killed in war, and others who told them how awful it was. I think they actually got what I was saying, though I’m not deluded enough to think I convinced them to stop playing.
In the end, we told Andrew that each parent has to make decisions for their own children and, in our opinion, games that make him a first-person participant in war cannot be good for his soul. Our answer won’t make him happy and it may even make it harder for him to fit in, but there it is. I think he gets it and even respects it, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the end of the argument. In the meantime, we’ll be holding firm on this one, taking parenthood one hard decision at a time.