Parental Apathy-or-Permissiveness?

BEN WROTE: (Regarding a post from a reader named Jared) I don’t know of any parent (that actually knows what the big M on the box means) who would let there kid play that. I’m 14 and my parents are unwilling to let borrow halo 3 from a friend even though I have call of duty modern warefare 2.


Ok, that isn’t a question but I wanted to yank it out of a long buried article to make a point and to address the question hidden inside Ben’s post.

I’d estimate based on experiences like when I spoke at the American and Mississippi Librarian conventions and when I’ve done PTA or other work, that roughly 20% or so of parents do not understand* or care at all about the ESRB ratings.

* more likely haven’t tried to understand

The parents who understand the ratings best are the ones who care the most. They genuinely want to know if a game can hurt their kids, they haven’t made up their minds about media being harmful.

Most of my readers are the above.

That said, the VAST majority of parents in America, I believe, either don’t care or don’t worry about R rated movies or M rated games. Either because they’re too busy, or they’ve given up on making video games a “battleground” with their kids, or they were raised watching grown-up movies as kids themselves. They figure “It didn’t hurt me so it shouldn’t hurt them.”

My experience therefore is that the parents who I hear from most are the ones next-to-least likely to let their kids play M-rated games (the “least” likely are parents who already mistrust media) are a small but vocal number. Parents like yours Ben.

Most parents, for whatever reason, let videogames join DVDs, Internet and TV. They don’t have time, or enough fear/worry, to pay close attention. I don’t judge any parental decision.

No Responses to “Parental Apathy-or-Permissiveness?”

  1. Yes, I understand that my parents are the ones that actually pay attention and care (though I still want halo). I now know that the reason my dad didn’t want me borrowing halo is because he hadn’t researched the content and he had a lot of computer work to do. I’m glad that they pay attention to the content in movies and games. Them allowing me to get Halo or not I know really isn’t the point, because whether or not I get it, they will still look at it before they make that decision. I guess saying what I said in my comment on Jared, I do realize maybe a lot of the parents do know what’s to in media but just don’t care. I feel almost sick to hear a 9 year old wanting grand theft auto or any of the games Jared listed. Well, anyway, thanks and I will have to get my dad to visit this site if ESRB doesn’t give him enough information.

  2. My parents do know just as much about esrb ratings as I do. They are not the kind who completely shelter me and my siblings but the do protect us from unnecessary amounts of violence, blood, language, or really anything else that might be too distubing. As I said, I have Modern Warefare 2, but only for spec ops and multiplayer. So no, they aren’t mistrusting the media rather than keeping an eye on what I don’t need to see at 14 years old. Once again, they protect me, but not overprotect me.

  3. I am 13, and my parent’s pretty much let me get any M rated games now. halo 3 is my FAVORITE game, (cant wait for reach) I reccomend your parents seeing youtube videos/trailers of halo 3, it will probably remind your mom/dad of halo.

  4. I’m sorry, the above post I meant remind them of starwars, not halo.

  5. Lol. Yeah, I know the gamerdad dissagrees with the M rating and hey, I have MW2, which is much more realistic and violent than Halo. You shoot aliens, not people, and when you do shoot people in multiplayer, it has less blood than my Tony Hawks game. But anyway, they will research the game sometime and I willshow them some YouTube and probably some of what gamerdad said about it. It really wasn’t that my parents weren’t unwilling to get me the game, but they need to check it out first sometime.
    PS. Wow, it does kinda look like star wars

  6. It helps to also remember that without… purple blood… Halo would be Teen.

    Every parent draws the line differently. Some feel that fantasy violence is worse for being about killing without real consequence. Some feel that military shooters are better because they are realistic and prove how easy it is to die in a war situation. The reality is that both are just games.

    That said, I’ve yet to encounter a parent who feels that Halo is more violent than Modern Warfare 2. Saying Halo 1-3 should be T-teen is easily the most popular thing I’ve ever said. I’ve NEVER gotten a single disagreement on it except from the ESRB itself (and that was in a conversation).

  7. I should add that I didn’t direct that rambling answer at Ben. I just took an opportunity to comment on some things I’ve learned about this subject.

  8. Obviously ESRB knows what there talking about but, it is smart for them to rate things maybe a little more restrictive than not to protect against any lawsuits. But, my parents are going to look at Halo’s rating when they get the chance and probably watch some videos. I’m pretty sure they won’t mind after they see some gameplay and reviews but that might be a while.

  9. OK, I’ll make a small contribution to the discussion.

    The “maturity” (as defined by age-rating boards) of games is not just about the amount or the colour of blood. MW2 is simply a much more intense game that Halo 3 and it makes a much greater effort at mimicking reality. You also shoot human beings (and even innocent ones in “No Russian”) as opposed to generic aliens. This, in a nutshell, is why most people would consider MW2 more violent than halo 3.

    Secondly, everyone knows my opinion on the connection between age ratings and the choices of parents. As far as I’m concerned, age ratings are merely guidelines and a parent has the freedom to judge the maturity of their own child. The correlation between age and maturity isn’t 100% accurate. Ultimately, every kid/teen is different and no-one knows a kid/teen better that their parents.

    Thirdly, there’s really nothing particularly bad about Halo 3 if MW2 is suitable under the same parental standard.

    That’s all.

  10. Ok, I will be sure to let my dad look at some of this when the time comes. I don’t think we need to carry the conversation any further than we have already (mostly because I don’t like having my name posted on the front of a large blog like this, but I guess that’s my fault) and im probably going to use this site more often. Thanks!

  11. Yeah I feel your pain Ben. My parents are the exact same way. If your dad is still unsure and is a bit of a gamer himself, ask him to try it out before you play. My dad did the same thing and in the end I could play halo! It all depends if he can stand a little blood. (Purple blood is still blood.) 🙂

  12. It’s fine caleb. He’s checking it out for me this weekend and he says we might play coop sometime

  13. As a lifetime gamer and mother, I have to say that most parents have no idea what they are buying for their children. I have worked with children for 20 years and you wouldn’t believe how many fourth graders and younger had parents that pre-ordered GTA4 for their kids. Kids you may not agree with your parents, but respect and appreciate the fact that they care enough to be involved. My son, when he was your age was not allowed to bring certain games into the house. GTA4 was one. (I rented and played the games before I made my decisions of what was allowed.) Blood for some is the issue, for some it’s the language and others the “mature content” .

    My son now 18, actually thanked me. Why, I am not sure. As we discuss new games coming out and which ones to get as he leaves for college, I can see he has become critical of game publishers that charge $60 for poor physics and game graphics, poor story lines and the only thing that carries the profits to the title being the questionable unnecessary additional content. He loves the halo franchise, gears of war, Drake’s Fortune franchise, and of course Warhawk and CODMW2.

    Personally my favorite game is CODMW2.

  14. Whatever you do, If you ever want to play an “M” rated game before you turn 17, do NOT show your parent’s the website They have the worst ratings, for example, they recommend all the halo games for 18+. Stupid, isn’t it?

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