Gaming with Children: A cautionary tale

November 17, 2010

My kids have been sick this week, and a ton of people have been in and out of the house. Oxygen delivery, nocturnal O2 sat tests, RSV vaccine delivery, physical therapist visit for my smallest daughter, and two visits to the dentist for me to get and repair a crown. On top of that, I am in the middle of a 12-day second shift cycle at work. Things have been a little hectic to say that least, and that is why this article will be short. Today I have an anecdote for you that I have taken to heart.

My neighbor has two great kids. His son loves to read books and comics, pretend out in the yard that he is Luke Skywalker fighting for the rebels, and play video games like Rock Band, Blue Dragon and The Maw with his dad. His daughter is younger, but she still wants to be just like Daddy. When she isn’t watching Baby Einstein or Pokemon (with her big brother, of course) she likes to hang out with Daddy and play with Xbox 360 controllers. She used to not know the difference when there were no batteries, but now she knows that no lights means it doesn’t work. 

One night my neighbor and I were playing PS3 while his daughter was sitting on the couch playing with an Xbox 360 controller. She was happily pressing buttons, giggling, and generally having a good time. When our time with LittleBigPlanet was over, we went to play a little Gears of War and my neighbor noticed that he had 4,000 more Microsoft Points than he used to. It turns out that even when the video isn’t visible on the TV, the 360 controller can still navigate menus.

My neighbor had already set up parental controls to ensure that his son could not play anything higher than E10+, but after spending $50 extra on XBLM, he turned off auto-login for his account and put a password on it as well. It is important to protect our children from the world when they’re young, but it is also important to protect the world from our children because where there’s a controller and a toddler, trouble’s not far behind.