The Kids Are Not Alright – An Open Letter to “Parenting Expert” Jo Frost

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, between August 6 and August 10, 2011 London England suffered some of the worst rioting the region has ever faced.  Many people were quick to look for a cause to the riots that saw the region terrorized by looting, arson, muggings and assaults.  Five people were killed during the riots and millions are left scarred by the actions of brazen young men and women who acted without fear.

It’s no surprise however that video games were named as a cause to these horrific events.  We know it’s not true of course, but every time games are blamed I tend to get a little ticked off for that simple fact – it’s just not true.  Painting video games as evil training guides for killing and violence paints us all with the same broad brush stroke, as unique as we all are.  It should make you a little angry too.

One of the people jumping on the bandwagon is Jo Frost, better known as Supernanny.  Despite the fact that she might never get back to me, I decided I’d pen (err, type…) an open letter.  Without using the words “ugly fatass bitch,” or resorting to any other kind of name calling.  You don’t even have to ask – the comments in which the opinion piece was brought to my attention were…horrible.  All of  which give her claim more credence than we could ever possibly intend.

Dear Jo (A.K.A. Supernanny),

I have to start with a bit of an introduction.  I’m 25 years old, two post-secondary diplomas, two jobs and not a criminal record to be found.  Also, much to the chagrin of quite a few of my friends, I’m a big Supernanny fan.  There’s also something else you should know about me…I’m a huge gamer.  I always have been.  The kind of games that my parents would abhor.  However the conclusion that you draw is that because I regularly play video games that have subject matter such as murder, abuse, drug use, crime would lead me to be some sort of Hellspawn capable of the worst kinds of actions.

Let me tell you something in quite possibly the nicest way anyone will probably tell you.  That’s a load.

Jo, you of all people should know better – you’re an expert in parenting.  Although it is only television, I’m sure that you’ve done a lot of good work with children and their parents alike.   However in your article on Express.co.uk, you paint not only all games, but all gamers with the same broad brush stroke.

I use the term ‘kids’ frequently.  When I refer to ‘kids’ I mean teens and young adults as well

If you really want to pinpoint a cause of the London Riots…well, it’s hard.  Riots have multi-faceted origins and even though society wants to point the blame at a specific cause because it makes us feel better, pointing blame at one thing when something else could clearly be the cause is just irresponsible.  If you’d like a quick look into some of the issues that could have possibly (read: more than likely) caused this tragedy, I implore you to take a look at the embedded video.  This is a man with obviously a little more insight into your country’s socio-economic issues.

I agree 100% with what this man says and I wish I could have said it first.  Kudos!

Now that that’s out of the way, I can continue with my little complaint of you blaming “video game addiction,”  and its detrimental affects on youth.  Well, its’ detrimental affects on anyone, really.  I have to state with open honestly that I think that an addiction to video games is a falsehood.  Am I saying that it cannot happen?  No, because I’m really not an expert in the area of addictions.  There are cases where grown adults, people who should know better, are found dead at their personal computers because they simply could not judge when to turn the damned thing off.  However saying that kids as young as 7 and 8 are addicted to video games?  Well that’s just wrong.

Personally, I place the blame of this “addiction” to the sedentary lifestyle they lead, something that stems from childhood.  I cannot be so certain in England, but where I’m from, getting kids off the couch is a huge effort.  Obesity rates are skyrocketing; in my area alone over half of the population in the 7th grade (that’s 14 years old) is either overweight or obese.  Young people are dying because of pulmonary embolisms from spending too long of a time idle.  Being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes is almost like a right of passage into adulthood.  We could blame video games for this too, but that would be placing the blame solely on a multi-sourced problem.  Schools all around the world are cutting funding to gym classes and extra-curricular activities, including band and the arts simply because there are “more important” things for the money to be spent on.  Kids that don’t have access to this through school are more than likely go without due to the fact that the cost to enroll is often times prohibitively high.

For a country so known for hockey, the sport is quite expensive to play

So what do they do?  They sit around and watch television or if they’re fortunate enough to have parents that can afford one, they sit in front of the Xbox or Playstation all evening.  If their parents are among the rank and file of people that work the afternoon shift, they come home from school at 1500hrs, eat something probably not all that healthy and spend the rest of their evening on their asses.  It’s not because they’re addicted, it’s because they have no parents there to…well, parent.  They have no parental supervision, someone to teach them to get a proper amount of exercise (which they’re not learning because of cuts to physical education in schools!),  to eat a healthy and balanced diet, or that it’s wrong to punch their sister in the face.

If you performed a little research, you would find that 80% of the people that play the games you’re basing your conclusions off of, none of them have ever committed a criminal act.  They’re morally upright people both young and old, who know the difference between a video game and the real world despite how amazing the graphics might be.  They might talk big on the Internet (as I’m sure some folks who disagree with your opinion have clearly demonstrated), but one’s actions in a world of anonymity can hardly be a true test of character.  It can also be hypothesized that angry, violent people may be drawn to angry, violent media, as well because it suits them?  It’s what they want to hear, or see, or play with.  But this violent media is also attractive to law-abiding citizens who find its violence a healthy escape from their actual lives, where they aren’t street thugs or space engineers or bio-terrorist enforcement officers.

Rated M for Mature

In the odd chance that someone out there learns that it’s okay to punch their sister in the face after seeing it in a video game, that’s where the parent needs to step in and do their job.  I’m sure that you got your opinion of video games not only from its tainted view in the media, but also from parents who are fed up with their children’s acts and place the blame wrongly on all of the games they play.  But you know these parents aren’t doing their job in the first place, they’re misguided and looking for an easy scapegoat.  Why give them one?

Just to show that the gaming industry isn’t just throwing games out there directed solely to little tykes that contain murder and rape, there exists such a thing as the video game content rating system.  Various organizational bodies screen game content and deem it an appropriate rating.  For instance, games that have a PEGI 18 rating are not suitable for those under the age of 18, which is the equivalent of an M rating in North America.

Ratings like these are for parents…

This rating system exists to give parents and the public a look at what they’re getting into when they purchase a game for their child.  Because like it or not, most game purchases are done by the parents, up to a certain age point.  Even if they’re not the primary purchaser of games, they should be examining these ratings.  If they don’t, then that’s a failure of the parent, not a failure of the gaming industry.  You can’t penalize an entire audience of law-abiding gamers because some parents refuse to parent.  Sure, it’s easier for parents to give in to a screaming brat because they want Grand Theft Auto, even though they know they shouldn’t have it.  Another example of bad parenting.

In conclusion, who is really to blame for society’s woes?  You’re the parenting expert…you tell me.

 

               
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COMMENTS

  • Joe

    Very well said. Though as you stated early in the article, she’ll probably never acknowledge this letter in any way, mostly because it would be stupid to do so It’s much easier to blindly hurl half-baked, factually unsupported accusations in a statement than it is to actually engage someone with equally well fortified measures of intelligence and eloquence in the back-and-forth candor of debate. Such a conversation would eventually expose just how thin both her argument and her self-professed expertise on child-rearing really is.

  • xSTRAIGHT-EDGE1x

    I 100% agree with your article, well said.

  • Paul

    I have 3 children who all play video games, as do I.
    My eldest is 16 and planning to join the police force as soon as he is able, yet he is a massive, and I do mean massive, fan of the Call Of Dutys’. That can’t be right can it? He also like horrors, yet seems set to be looking towards good grades this week when he gets them.

    I also have 2 daughters, and I find it hard to believe that playing through the Lego games with me is doing my 8 year old any harm, niether is the violence in Crash Bandicoot going to make her want to spin around madly in ASDA one day chopping the baddies down.

    My youngest is coming up 3, and a shape recognition and colour game I downloaded on the Xbox is great for her, but obviously she isn’t on it all day, or even every day or even not for a week or two.
    Also, being a childminder all fully registered with Ofsted and working within their guidelines, Kinnect is a wonderful piece of kit for not only keeping fit and moving about, but also for encouraging play, team building and able to cover all age boundries.
    As a family, we all love Fruit Ninja, yet we aren’t planning to attack the nearby grocers with death stars!!

    I’m 36 now, and I had to put up with all this nonsense back when Mortal Kombat came out, and the original Splatter House on the arcades.
    The thing is, games are just an easy scapegoat for someone to jump on a soapbox with, like rock music and fatty foods.

    I would also like to point ut to Jo that using a naughty step, or stool, is the easy way!! Love the show though!!

  • killer89

    Whats the point of rating – system, if parents buy games such as GTA 4 to their kids?

    Yes, I´ve seen a parent buying GTA4 to her 9 year old kid.

  • merzitar

    People always blame games for everything. It’s such a stupid argument and it makes me angry. I have been playing games since the age of three, and horror games at the age of seven. And guess what? I don’t go around murdering people! It’s just childish to continue blaming games for every little problem the world has. Plus, it is a fact that video games are actually very good for you compared to ordinary TV. TV is passive – you just sit there staring at it, without a thought in your mind whereas video games make you think in order to progress, so therefor, as you’re constantly using and training your mind, it’s better for you.

    Anyway, final words:

    Video games don’t cause murders! If you’re going to murder someone, it’s because you’re a bloody idiot, and games will have NO infulence.

  • i have had this debate for years!!! SOMEONES ON MY SIDE!! THANK YOU JEEVES!!

  • John

    What does this have to do with Horror?

    • Most horror games are rated mature, full of violence and gore.

  • I’m late to this party, but Jo Frost has already cemented her position as a bona fide politician and ignoramus in this matter.

    Months before these riots, a new show emerged in the UK called Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance. She used one of the episodes to showcase a study of her own where she hired a bunch of academics, dressed them up in white coats, along with a ground of children who were divided into two groups. One group played a soccer game, while the other group played some first-person-shooter. They children were then subjected to violent news and their reactions were gauged. Apparently, the ones playing the FPS games exhibited less sensitivity. Both groups had a reaction, nevertheless; simply because the FPS crowd didn’t bother to pick up the pencil for the authority figure in the post-game interview, doesn’t mean that they’ll head down the path of violence.

    Now I hold a similar academic qualification to some of those fine gents she paid to be on the show and AGREE with her confirmation bias. Unlike them in their white coat roles, I can say there’a series of confounding factors in her study that she blatantly ignored. It’s quite evident from the get-go that she’s rigged the study to support her own narrow world view; it has no place in the arena of objective behavioural study. Here’s the real kicker: quite a bit of youth violence in Britain actually stems from the YOB culture of football fans, and this football club culture has the capacity to reduce an entire city to flames and little else. If anything, further bondage with violent sports culture will most likely result in many bar brawls and gang fights, and that’s where the FPS player will hardly have grounds to be implicated.

    Over and above all else, all these feeble rigged studies completely ignore this: some of those most violent places on this planet hardly have any violent media or interactive media. Some of the best child soldiers are made from methodical rearing and not from simulations on Call of Duty. Perhaps we should also censor the news since that’s full of a lot of violent and disconcerting information that might — heaven forbid — drive some child to NOT pick up his teacher’s pencil if it were to accidentally fall, because we know that means he or she will grow up to be a criminal, right? Talk about slipper slope.

    Of course, pointing out some of these fundamental and confounding factors to Jo Frost is pointless since her entire fragile thesis stands on a bunch of uneducated suppositions and overarching rhetoric that appeals to the masses. She is a far cry from an expert, and not a parent herself. . . she isn’t educated, and neither is she an expert in any professional sense. I actually think she’s terrible in how she implements discipline. Reality stands that she’s simply one individual with some life experience and piss-poor grasp of basic psychology, who managed to get into the spot light at the right time.

    Television media is largely a game of gamble; she’s the perfect example. Her show’s turned her into an authority figure that hardly merits the level of importance that she’s awarded.

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