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The Call of Duty Dilemma

Got a question in from one of our parents this week – it is a question we’re getting quite often and one I’m answering in my own home as well. A parent asked this:

I’ve been researching online because of a dilemma I have. I have 3 boys, a 9 yo. a 6 and a 1 yo. my 2 elder boys love to play Call of Duty. I know it is a violent game, but I just don’t know the right words to say to discourage them from playing it. I tried my best to say that its a violent game and its not going to do them any good but I end up losing the argument when they start saying that they are the only ones in class/group of friends that doesn’t play it.

I asked Parker to reply (he’s the resident game along with myself), and thought what he shared was excellent. He gave me permission to reprint it here on the blog in case it would be helpful to you!

Hi Parent!

Great question! First and foremost, you’re completely right. If you feel like a game is too violent, you have every right to restrict your son from playing it. He may kick and scream, but you’re not doing anything wrong by being a parent. In fact, I’m really happy that you’re not just snatching the game away and enforcing BMSS Law (Because Mom Said So). That would probably cause more issue with him. I love that you’re looking to encourage him to do the right thing rather than force him. So here are my three thoughts on restricting teenagers from violent video games:

1. Explain more about how you don’t feel: Sounds strange, but when you only explain how you do feel and your teenager doesn’t agree with you, he’ll start filling in gaps on your side to justify why he’s right and you’re crazy. So, rather than just saying, “I don’t want you playing these games because…”, add “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you’re going to shoot up a school because you’re playing MW3. It’s not that I think it makes you a bad kid. I don’t even think it’s the worst game ever that’s going to corrupt your mind.” Every point you make about how you don’t feel is less ammo for him to complain about later. He won’t be able to say, “My mom’s crazy! She thinks a video game is going to corrupt me!” In reality, you’re trying your best to raise a Godly son and you want him to make good choices in what he does in his life. You don’t feel like violent games are a choice that honors God, so you want him to find an alternative.

2. Let him choose alternatives: Some parents are okay with games like Halo because you’re fighting aliens instead of humans (that’s your own comfort level). Let him know that you’re completely okay with other games (just don’t restrict them to LeapFrog games!). If he gets to choose other games, he’ll be less resistant because you’re partnering with him, not controlling him. Just feeling that ownership of decision making can make a huge difference. So, you’re setting the game boundaries because you’re the parent, but he’s free to play whatever game he wants (as long as they’re inside your boundaries). When you talk, focus more on the games he can plan, not the games he can’t. Make it a discussion, not a lecture.

3. Buy him a replacement: If you’re going to take away one of his games, I’d suggest offering to replace it. Remember, he didn’t do anything wrong by playing MW3. It’s just something you’re not comfortable with. So, instead of taking away something he enjoys and saying, “Tough luck”, consider buying him a new game that you do approve of. If he reacts well, reward him with a newer/better game of his choice. If he blows up on you, don’t get him a game at all, but make it very clear that it’s because of his reaction, not because he likes playing MW3.

The big thing is to work with him, not drop a bombshell on his gaming life. This stuff is important to teenagers and it helps them to know that you understand the impact it makes on their lives when you remove a game from their archive. Remember, you’re still the parent and what you says goes. Just give him and support the opportunity to deal with this on a mature, win/win basis. Hopefully things go well and he doesn’t get his whole Xbox taken away!!!

I’ll be praying for you! Keep me updated!


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Josh Griffin is high school pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co-counder of DownloadYouthMinistry.com and host of the Youth Ministry Garage Podcast. He's authored more than 20 youth ministry resources and is the author of "99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders" with Doug Fields. Josh is a father of 4 who speaks a little, podcasts a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot. You can find him at DownloadYouthMinistry.com!