Being a tomboy had given me a little insight into what my child would bring to the table. Sports talk? Bring it on. ESPN was my channel of choice every morning before school. Car talk? Sure. My career field as a warranty clerk at a local Peterbilt dealership has given me the confidence to throw my two cents in. My dear husband even provided me with a working knowledge of the world of Xbox and online gaming.
In my mind, I was good to go.
I never so much as batted an eye when my boy picked up the controller, plopped the oversized headset unevenly on his head. Instead, I smiled, pointed and grabbed my camera. I saw no harm. No alarms went off in my head. No gut-wrenching guilt fell upon me. No internal conflict presented itself in any form.
It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that this is not the case for some of our political leaders.
Following the horrifying shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., President Donald Trump pointed blame at the video-game industry, stating, “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
The same sentiment was echoed by my ol’ Kentucky home’s governor, Matt Bevin.
In an interview on the “Leland Conway Show,” he spoke of a “culture of death that is being celebrated,” furthering the idea gaming industries are responsible for such acts of violence. He explained, “There are video games, that yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it and there’s nothing to prevent the child from playing them, that celebrate the slaughtering of people.”
In fact, just this week during a listening session held in Lexington, the governor renewed his sentiments, citing video game violence as part of the problem, and I can’t shake my disgust.
My son plays those games rated M for mature, in front of me or my husband in our living room. We are part of the “nothing” preventing him from engaging in such entertainment activities and we should not be made to feel game-shamed while the country struggles for a solution to school violence.
Through his gaming, important and necessary conversations have risen. I have been able to address issues like sharing, persistence, empathy and self-harm with my four-year-old. We have discussed appropriate reactions to real-life violence, the difference between reality and pretend, even respect and honor regarding military and police.
Social media is quick to come to a mother’s rescue when discussing housecleaning habits, a child’s diet and clothing choices. Followers of Instagram are quick to defend leading ladies when being fat-shamed by trolls. Members of the media are slammed for making insinuations to pre-teen and adolescent stars regarding their sexuality or weight.
Yet, my decision to open my home to video games is blatantly debated by politicians and has few defenders. Few even see a need for defense.
I see it. It is my goal in life to protect my son from the negativity in this world, be it steering him away from misogynistic thinking, bullies at school or socially ignited prejudice aimed to pressure and entice his pliable heart to hatred.
This is especially true when the prejudice points at him and our family for partaking in the lighthearted entertainment we have grown to love.
Gaming has opened doors with my son I would have never been able to open alone and at a much younger age than I thought possible. It has been anything but negative for my son and he shouldn’t be shamed for it.
It’s my job to see that he isn’t.
Beth Pugh of Pikeville is a published writer on parenting matters. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org