Thursday, November 6, 2008
Yes, Virginia, Santa Has a Drinking Problem
I have a hard time remembering the world before the Internet, but every now and then I miss my insular little bubble of ignorance. Remember when kids were only influenced by their school friends, family, scout groups and neighbors? When they could only venture as far as their bicycles and legs would take them? When there were only seven channels on the t.v.?
Jacob loves computers. He has a few sites he likes to visit where he plays online games, and I've checked them out to make sure they're not offensive or showing too many (or inappropriate) ads. Whether he ventures beyond these sites, I do not know, but we have talked about the rules and I trust him, so I don't believe he does.
While I understand that computer games are a growing business, and that they are pretty much everywhere, I have forgotten that what I consider to be a kids' game is likely to be different from what someone else (who is not a family member or fellow mom) might consider to be a kids' game. Especially if the someone else includes the people who write the games.
Today I was searching around for some imagination-building games for kids online. I stumbled onto sharewareconnection.com, a software-sharing website, and clicked on "games" and then on the category labeled "kids." And it was here that I found a cartoony little game called Sober Santa 2. More disturbing than the fact that this is a sequel to an already-existing game was the description:
"It is unbelievably funny to play this great free game. You are the Santa and you want to pick up as many glasses of booze as possible. Each glass of booze you take will make this Santa shakier. His feet will be dragging, his balance will worsen and after a couple of drinks this Santa won't even be able to stand without stumbling. This game is incredibly realistic in showing the effects of alcohol abuse. You have no idea how fun it is to play the Shaky Santa on Booze free kids game."
This leads me to presume that the first game was called Shaky Santa on Booze. Can someone please explain to me why this is considered a children's game? And what's funny about alcohol abuse? And where the children are who are playing it?
Call me old-fashioned, but this is not my idea of fun. And, while I'm no child psychologist, it also does not seem like an effective way to teach children about alcohol abuse, especially if it is considered "fun and funny" (since this would not really portray alcohol abuse as negative).
What this discovery taught me was that as parents, we must be vigilant. While the games we buy in stores for our children are required to have ratings on them, free games online are completely unrestricted.
We don't need to know everything that's out there, nor do we need to block our children from everything available on the computer. That would be like never letting them leave the house. Rather, we need to teach our kids how to make good decisions, we need to remain open to dialogue, and we must stay on the lookout. Not to prevent our kids from finding inappropriate games, but for the teachable moments they present.
Posted by Christine Adler