Video game makers allow parents to control what kids see when gaming
Divide your classroom into two groups--one representing the video game makers and one representing parents of children who play video games. Discuss who's responsibility it is to protect children from inappropriate content in video games and why.
Survey the classroom to determine which video games are the most popular and why. List these on the board and have the students rate the content according to the content ratings used by the video game manufacturers. Ask the students to determine who the best entity is for determining a video game's content rating and why.
Survey the classroom to determine who plays video games regular and what system they use. List the student names on the board along with the number of video games owned by each. Then record a rating next to each name that indicates that student's perception of how attentive his or her parent is to what they video games they play--and how likely that parent would be to know about or use parental controls like those offered on the Playstation, Xbox, or Revolution.
Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, makers of the Playstation, Xbox, and the soon-to-be-released Revolution, respectively, are including parental controls on the popular video game devices. These controls allow parents to regulate how much potentially offensive material--such as violence or other inappropriate content--can be seen by children when playing the games.
Inappropriate content? Game makers include inappropriate content in their games because it helps sales. So, rather than attempt to regulate the content, or decide what is inappropriate for one child or another, the game makers allow the parents to make that call by adding the ability to limit or eliminate the inappropriate content of the games. While the game makers are giving parents the tools to regulate what their children see in a video game, in a sense they are shirking or side-stepping the responsibility of not producing inappropriate games.
Control? How the game makers allow parents the control over the content will be key. Most children are more technologically savvy than their parents and may easily be able to find a way around the controls. So parents will have to stay on top of their game in order to enforce the kind of filtering they want for their children. In selecting what level of content to let children see or hear, parents will need to have some understanding of what each of the levels allows, content-wise. A level rated for young children does not necessarily mean every parent will want their young child exposed to it.
No control? Parents may be able to control what their children see on the game console that's in their own homes, but they won't necessarily have any control over the game consoles at other homes where their children visit. Parents will need to determine whether the other game console has parental controls; if so, at what settings they'll be set; what games are being played; etc.--all without sounding nosy or untrusting of the other family.
Realistic? While it will be parents and not children who will likely be the ones purchasing the game consoles with the parental controls, it will likely be the children who play the games for the majority of the time. At some point, children may have friends visit who bring over other games or who know how to reset or change the parental controls. (Many games have "hack" or "cheat" codes that can be readily found on the Internet.) How many parents will have a solid, working knowledge of the latest game consoles when their VCRs still blink "12:00 AM"? And how many children, in "demonstrating" a particular video game to a parent in an effort to prove that it's "okay" will show them all the nuances and details of that game? And what parent will take an interest or has the time to listen?
Parenting? Parental controls on game consoles can be a useful tool for parents who want to allow their children to play video games. But it cannot be the only tool. Instead of relying on technology to filter out inappropriate material, parents might also consider teaching their children to do the same--on their own. Giving children a chance to learn what is inappropriate (and why) and thus prove themselves might offer better long-term results than trying to program a video game to only allow "appropriate" material to reach their eyes and ears.
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