I remember when I was a child, about 7 years old, my two sisters and I loved watching ‘Astro Boy’ which aired each night just before the 6pm news. One day Mum and Dad spoke to my older sister and I and told us that our younger sister was no longer allowed to watch the show. She was having nightmares and they determined it was from the violence she was viewing on this seemingly harmless hero cartoon. From then on, we’d close the door to the rumpus room and either Mum or Dad would distract our younger sibling during the 20 minutes that Astro Boy fought the baddies and saved the world!

I‘ve never forgotten this event and I’m very thankful for it, as this memory caused me to ponder and reflect many times as a parent on what I would allow my own children to watch, or what video games I’d allow them to play at each age.

Technology and media have come a long way since my Astro Boy watching days and the handheld Mickey Mouse Firefighter Nintendo Game my sister and I took turns playing, back in the early 80’s. With the introduction of streaming services and with gaming becoming a popular hobby among children and teenagers, it’s vitally important that as parents we’re asking ourselves whether we’re being wise about what we’re allowing our children to see.

The entertainment industry isn’t concerned about the impact of media violence on our children. But we should be. The industry is always going to try to attract and capture audiences with extreme visuals and imagery that are sophisticated and realistic. Whether through movies or video games, content all too often promotes killings and war, normalises criminal behaviours and displays stereotypes. Foul language and obscene gestures are also commonplace.

While this is a tragedy, it’s important to remember that you have control over what your kids see, watch and play. There is growing research about the effects of video games and violent movies on children. Children can struggle to separate imagination from reality and when children are exposed to violence they can become immune or numb towards it and are more likely to show aggressive behaviours.

What can we do to be wise as parents?

  1. Make sure games and movies are age-appropriate. Be aware of ratings, but also understand that just because a rating might be of the appropriate age for your child, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s harmless for them.
  2. Play the game, or watch the movie before your child does so you know exactly what they will be seeing or doing. Reading online reviews can also be helpful.
  3. Make sure all televisions and computers are in public locations, not in private spaces such as bedrooms. This makes monitoring easier.
  4. Use passwords or content blockers on TV’s and devices to filter programs that contain violence or inappropriate content.
  5. Set clear rules about what they can watch or play, for times when they are both at your home and at other places.
  6. Don’t allow young children to have their own profiles such as an Apple ID or a Google Account to access the Play Store. Have them use your account so you’re in full control of the content they are downloading and viewing.

Once children see things, they can’t unsee them. Their brains and their psychology are too precious to injure. Let’s be wise and do all we can to shield our children from violent, inappropriate and scary content. It’s our responsibility to protect children in this way.

Mrs Vicki Gunning / Head of Junior School