Young People and Violent Games

The following is a reply to a posting, on the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of parents, about young people participating in laser tag1 and other games involving violence.

I am a fifty-six-year-old white Ashkenazi Jewish mom of an almost ten-year-old African American Jewish daughter. A couple of years ago, a close male friend and classmate of my daughter invited her to a laser-tag birthday party. She was interested in finding out about laser tag, but mainly she loves playing with her friends.

I discussed it with her dad, an African American Protestant veteran, and we agreed that she could go if one of us stayed close to her in the laser-tag game and also thought about the whole situation. It went okay, and she is no longer interested in laser tag—except on the infrequent occasion when a friend invites her to come and play it. Then I go and play it with them, and involve other parents.

She has been interested in guns and periodically will ask to buy one. We have only allowed water guns. In general, we have worked to follow and support her interests, including encouraging her to explore what are considered both boys’ and girls’ toys. Many of the “boys’” toys, even if they are not actual guns, have the same themes as the gun-type games.

Cartoons, TV shows, movies, and video and on-line games have scary themes of violence, killing, and domination. Some we avoid, some we set a limit on, and others she gets to watch or play. I stay close, try to notice what is going on,2 play with her, and offer sessions. She asks questions.

I think it is useful to set limits around this stuff. My daughter has had some sessions resulting from those limits. It is important to notice how scary many things are. Some of them we have tried to shield her from. We talk about how deeply hurt everyone is and how the pull to do scary stuff often comes out of the hope that someone will notice, move in and stop it, and offer a session.

We have had conversations about how society hurts boys to “prepare” them to go to war. We’ve talked about fighting in terms of struggles to end oppression and the difference between violence and force. We have talked about how violence has affected her dad and me, and our relationships with each other, with her, and as a family. She has had sessions on this and challenges us about it. I think it’s important that we talk about not just what happens in the society but how it affects our relationships.

We also talk as a family about TV as an addictive marketing device that pushes unhealthy, unnecessary products and takes people’s attention off of life, connection, and tackling challenges. When our daughter does watch TV, I stay close and my husband and I talk about and answer the questions she raises and look for opportunities for us all to laugh about what we see. We have played games that let us laugh hard about the stereotypes based on oppression.

We try to have age-relevant, thoughtful conversations about these kinds of issues as they come up in our daughter’s life, or as she raises them. Opportunities continuously present themselves.

She explores children’s games on the Internet. I always do it with her. Sometimes she wants to do it for special time.3 She plays some of the games with friends who get on the Internet at the same time. All this is in the context of systems based on white male domination and exploitation and how these games can isolate children from their parents and each other. As parents we need to get in there, before they turn on the games, and play with our children and move closer to them. We need to keep figuring out how to contradict young people’s oppression and help them be connected to each other.

In our parents’ support groups we can discharge on raising boys and girls in the context of sexism, male domination, and racism. We can take our struggles with male domination and racism into our sessions and support groups and keep going back after4 our children. In family work5 we can help create boys’ groups and girls’ groups, so that children have a gang that stands together against sexism, male domination, and men’s oppression. We need to continue to build family work with ending racism at the center and have playdays6 and workshops led by and for families of the global majority.

Jennifer Wexler

Hyde Park, Massachusetts, USA

 

1 Laster tag is a game in which players score points by tagging targets with infared rays emitted by a hand-held device.

2 Going on means happening.

3 Special time is an activity, developed in RC family work, during which an adult puts a young person in full charge of their mutual relationship, as far as the young person can think. For a specific period of time, the adult lets the young person know that he or she is willing to do anything the young person wants to do. The adult focuses his or her entire attention on the young person and follows his or her lead, whether the young person tells, or simply shows, the adult what she or he wants to do.

4 Going back after means going back and reaching for.

5 Family work is the application of Re-evaluation Counseling to the particular situations of young people, and families with young children. It entails young people and adults (both parents and allies) interacting in ways that allow young people to show and be themselves, and not be dominated by the adults.

6 A playday is a several-hour workshop that includes time for children to do whatever safe activities they want to do, with the encouragement and appreciation of the adults present, and to discharge if they wish. It also includes discharge time for the adults.

 

 


Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07