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.
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.
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.
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.
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.