I love helping people and I love working in our community, and I also have a strong love for gaming — so naturally, working at a local video gaming store for the past five year has been a wonderful experience.
Throughout my time there, I've dealt with many situations, and one that has occurred time and time again is how parents allow their children, ranging from ages 5 to 13, to purchase mature rated games that are intended for people who are 17 or older.
Whenever asked by a parent if such a game is suitable for their child, I make sure to explain to them the ESRB rating system — which rates games on a scale of E for everyone, T for teens 13 and older, and M for 17 and older.
I then explain to the parent what content the game entails, such as drug use, sexual content, violence or language.
I should note that four out of five times, the parent values my opinion, thanks me and asks their child to select another game.
There's always the exception, though — the parent who allows their child to have a game that contains such vulgar language and scenes of gore that could be found in a film such as"Saving Private Ryan."
I find this unsuitable for young children — and what's even more distressing is that, more often than not, the parents seem to lack control over their child when it comes to such a matter.
When telling a parent that the title their child has picked out has an"M"rating, I am often confronted with "All of his friends have it" or "He's seen worse on TV/in school."
The parent has the final say — but often allows their child to have their way.
On rare occasions I do encounter a parent who stands up to their child and tells them they may not have the game — but my experience has been that the child has some sort of breakdown right in the store — and the parent winds up purchasing the game for their child anyway, rendering the whole situation a waste of time.
In my opinion, games such as "Grand Theft Auto" and "Gears of War" are no suitable for a child to play — even if he or she "just drives around and doesn't shoot anyone" or even if you put a content blocker on.
I believe playing such games can strongly influence the opinions of children and, if anything, can lead to more rebellious or a skewed view on things such as moral choices.
I'm not a parent myself, but I am an brother to a younger sibling, and I do try to keep my parents informed on which games are suitable and which are not — and they do enforce that.
In my mind, it all comes down to being a stronger and more confident parent; the need to sit your child down and explain to them what's right and what's wrong for them to play (and why). It's extremely important, especially in such an age of information today.
Some parents will always give in to their children and take the easier path, but for those who take charge in what their child is doing and experiencing, I say thank you. Video games are not what they used to be, and they contain as much graphic media today as the Internet, television and film ... combined.
By being an informed and interactive parent, your child will be able to play games that are appropriate for their age and, in my opinion, you'll have an overall happier relationship.
The author is a student at McDaniel College.