Things have changed since I was a kid, and that was only twenty years ago. I remember shooting down demons in Doom, telling my dad all the cheat codes, shooting toy guns and having sword fights with my brother.
I always assumed my son would have kind of experience as I had.
A real eye-opener was when we were picking 2nd birthday presents for my nephew (My Partners sisters child). We were walking through the toy isle, looking at the foam guns and floor-mounted canon turrets (!), and I was the one getting excited. Know what we got this boy for his birthday? A painting-easel. Both my partner and her sister never had violent toys at home, and were adamant that their own children won’t play with violent toys either. I was gobsmacked, a toy box without a gun, rifle or sword? Why not? I was raised with a very real sense of fantasy and reality, even with toy guns my mother made us practice gun safety (never point the weapon at a person or animal, just shoot targets). Even though I grew up with violence in movies, videogames and with my toys, I always had parents instilling a strong sense of morals; I don’t fight, I’m not an angry or violent person. If I had a willingness to cause harm as a child, I’m sure my parents would have adopted a severely different approach.
Censorship is one of those conversations my partner and I had early on, probably because it’s one area where we clash and at the end of our conversation, it’s probably time for me to accept the fact that the times have changed. Obviously games have come a long way, and not just the graphics, there are characters that are constructed in-game so that when they explode, all the organs explode out of the body in the correct positions. It’s a far cry from what I grew up with and even though a videogame is still a work of fiction and I don’t believe it causes children to become violent, what they see could disturb and confuse, what’s worse is that expectations in society have changed.
In schools, children get in trouble for constructing guns with connector pens. I spent hours as a kid coming up with new combinations to show my friends in class. Any imitation gun isn’t acceptable in schools anymore, yet the toy store seems to bring in a bigger model every year.
With my son, I want to have those same foam shootouts, swordfights and play gory videogames, but I’ll need to introduce these things slowly. I don’t think violent toys or videogames are a bad thing (obviously), but with parenting we all need to find the middle ground with not just what is right at home but also what is right within society’s expectation of us and our children.