Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thoughts About Children and Censorship

Grand Theft Auto IV has been released. I've been watching the reviews with some interest over the last few weeks. Throughout the fray seems to be a lot of concern about keeping this game away from children.

Our son is 12. He enjoys video games, books, and action figures. There's a little girl at his school that he likes. Recently he excitedly told me that they held hands for a few minutes during recess, and he carries her books for her once in awhile. Sometimes he can be mouthy, and doesn't like to clean his room or brush his teeth when he should.

He is extremely kind-hearted towards our pets and all other animals that he meets. He's concerned when his Dad or I are not feeling well. He always asks if he can help with what we are doing. He takes the garbage out and feeds our pets faithfully without being reminded. He apologizes when he's spoken unkindly to us. He calls to let us know if he's going to be late coming home from school so we don't worry. He is concerned about kids he sees at his school who have developmental delays or are treated poorly by other students.

Don't misunderstand me - he's not a complete angel. But when I compare him to many of the children I've worked with, he is extraordinary. And I am grateful.

So. How are we raising a child who is showing such promise towards being a good and kind man in the future? Based on much of the popular research and opinion that I read - he should be heading quickly down the path of juvenile deliquency.

My husband and I have always been of one mind when it comes to censorship. We dislike it. We attempt to keep it out of our home and lives as much as we can. In our home we don't censor music, movies, books, magazines, subjects, language, appearance, or thoughts - and we never have. We've never sheltered our son from life or from society. This is not to say that we haven't run into some issues. Right now our son is pro-life. His Dad and I are pro-choice. I can't say that we're not hopeful that his opinion might change one day, but we are also very pleased that he can argue his position with some reasonably sound ideas. I also remember him at 8 years old innocently telling a conservative Christian friend of ours about the civil union ceremony he'd attended with us the past weekend.

One of my proudest parenting moments to date was when I received a phone call from his elementary school principal earlier this year. She was concerned because our son had won a prize for good behavior at school. The prize? One of those dreadful censored CD's where most of the original lyrics are either replaced or bleeped out. Her concern? Our son had refused to accept the prize, explaining to his teacher that it was a censored CD and he doesn't listen to censored music. She wanted to make sure that we knew what happened so that we could talk to him about appropriate and inappropriate music. I thanked her profusely and explained how proud I was to know that he was listening to us and taking what we were teaching him at home so seriously. She was chagrined, to say the least. When our son got home from school that day, I took him out for dinner and shopping, and I bought him the same CD, minus the bleeps and altered lyrics.

Our son thoroughly enjoys the Grand Theft Auto video game series. He's been playing the game since the first one. Once #4 goes on sale, we will be getting that one as well.

I wonder again - how has our child developed such a good character amidst all these seemingly terrible and destructive influences? Could it be that he hears us talk openly about our faith? Could it be that he's watched us being kind to each other and loving our pets? Could it be that he's heard us arguing -sometimes loudly- and then apologizing later for being mean, and coming to a compromise that made us both happy? Could it be that he's seen his parents doing random acts of kindness for strangers? Could it be that he's heard us discussing our differing opinions on various things, and disagreeing completely, yet respecting each other's thoughts? Could it be that he feels comfortable discussing his own thoughts with us and knowing we will respect them, whether we agree with them or not? Could it be that he can respectfully speak his mind in our home without reprisal? Could it be that we've never hidden the "seedier" sides of life, so that he never has to hear about them from his friends at school or search them out on his own, alone, without us knowing and being able to discuss them openly with him or explain what he doesn't understand?

I don't know why we've been blessed with a child of good character. I'd like to think that his Dad and I did our best to raise him with a conscience and an empathetic nature, and it worked the way it's supposed to work. I'd like to think that someday he will be grateful that he had parents who taught him that it is unacceptable for someone else to decide what he should see. hear, read, or think.

I refuse to believe that he is an anomaly. I also cannot believe that we would have ended up with a better child had we been far more restrictive with him.

Were we just lucky then? I doubt it. I think the parental example a child sees is of far more impact than any video game they will ever play.


abdelmoaty said...

your blog is really admirable,i bookmarked it and feel the great humanity in your words,my father was a social worker ,he worked in Columbus Ohio,in 70's

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