Not my proudest mommy moment, the caving into the purchase of video games when my oldest son was only three years old. My “gamer” husband couldn’t wait to have a “player two” in the house. It was the year “Game Boy Color” hit the market.
We began with the ‘educational games only’ mind-set but over time (and much quicker than I care to admit), we allowed role play and action games. Eventually our collection grew to include Wii, PS3, PSP, and newer and improved Game Boys and DS systems.
It is just what our boys (regardless of their age) enjoy doing together, so we purchased the newest technologies as they launched, whether it was the best family decision or not.
Eventually, in what felt like a flash of the eye, the gaming world evolved from playing in the living room with Daddy to online gaming with strangers around the world. We were always diligent to enforce the principals of stranger danger and internet safety, and I am so grateful that we seemed to have navigated through this segment of our lives unscathed.
Yet there have definitely been battles I am sure I would never have encountered if I had held firm to banning these systems from our home. I’m positive there were worries that would have been avoided, had I done that — especially as gaming moved out of the house and onto the World Wide Web where policing their contacts became much more difficult.
Today, though, it is not just video games that present that particular challenge, with every new social media launch such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc., I feel I have a new worry on how to keep my children safe. It is crucial we not grow lax or feel defeated by the overwhelming amount of new media to follow, but continue to monitor and balance being in the world and of the world.
Sure, one could argue, the answer to this problem is “Just Say No” and not allow it. Some could judge that I had forgotten which one of us is the parent and which is the child, and there have definitely been days I would have wholeheartedly agreed with that assessment. My motives have on occasion been skewed by my desire to normalize their lives as much as possible, because they are homeschooled – and they have even used this argument in rationalize gaining more screen time. My oldest in particular has made it clear that this is a significant part of his socialization, though he has many “In Real Life” friends – to him this is an extension of his school.
Like many of the decisions in parenting, we walk many tightropes, and sometimes we make it across the Grand Canyon, and sometimes we make it but it was an ugly crossing, and sometimes we plummet (but if we are wise have put a net beneath us).
In our case, the safety net has always been our Catholic faith. As much time as they put into their video gaming, it is matched by my husband and me in sharing and teaching our faith. We want to counter the negative, sometimes violent or worldly messages depicted in the games with the truth of love, hope, and mercy from the Gospel. We incorporate Catholic truths and teachings into our homeschool curriculum, purposely live our faith visibly and verbally so the boys can learn from our example, and carefully choose a parish home that has activities and program specifically for engaging the youth. We pray before every meal, even in McDonald’s. We have always attended Mass together as a family, though that is beginning to change, it is still an objective we strive for.
The bottom line, as I said earlier, is that we are trying to live in the world but not of the world. It was difficult for me this week when Grand Theft Auto V was released, and I had to decide whether to allow this new game into our home. It was one of the games I had always banned, but this was a huge release, and the boys had been reading about all the features (it was marketed incredibly well). When they said “all” their friends were getting it, they were not kidding as it made $800 million in one day!
My 17-year-old even wanted permission to attend the midnight release — alone. I had driven him to pick up the last game he pre-ordered and sat in the car watching hundreds of young men (and women) line up for the chance to be one of the first to own the game. I remember sitting in the car saddened at where our world had gone, realizing the irony that I had gone right there with it. I pondered the moving away from Catholicism I’d experienced in my own community, and wondered if people would ever line up like that to receive Jesus.
At the time, though I wished for it, I never thought I’d experience it in my lifetime. That was until God allowed this same son and me to attend World Youth Day in Rio this summer. Three-and-a-half million people from around the world (most of them young people) literally lined up for Jesus. There were not there for the release of a new game, but an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
So while I may be greatly faulted for my indulgence when it comes to my children in the video arena, I pray some recognize all my efforts to provide a sound, strong, faith for them as well.
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them [a]from [b]the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. – John 17:14-18
Copyright 2013 Allison Gingras