Children and Video Game Certification

(Film clips not suitable for under 18's and this is an opinion discussion piece)

As a teacher and a renown gamer (at least in my school) I occasionally get parents coming up to me asking for my advice about video games and whether specific titles are appropriate are suitable for their children.
I normally tell the parents that they should look at the game cover as there is an age certification there. This way I cover myself by making sure I follow the school policy but also ensure that the parents are following the video game certification system, of which they may be unaware.

This got me thinking about when I was a kid and the media I consumed which was often way too mature for me. My father would get VHS's of Jaws, Rambo, Robocop, Predator and many other 80's action films which featured high body counts and blood but it doesn't seem to have desensitised me or warped me in any way, well not that I can tell anyways!

However I do remember once going to a friends house when I was 8 years old and him excitedly telling me that he had a copy of the latest Freddie Krueger film. I proceeded to watch Nightmare on Elm Street 3 as Freddie invaded a young girls dream, turned into a giant worm in her dolls house and proceeded to swallowed her. I had nightmares for months afterwards and this scene was seared into my mind.

I'm guessing that my father was aware of the film age ratings and content but he allowed me to consume the media from an educated position, he never brought home psychological horror films or anything salacious but blood and guts were fine.
Every year without fail I see queues on parents with their young children buying the latest Call of Duty or Halo game and usually I find myself tutting to myself, thinking that the parents are ill-informed or not taking the responsibility of parenthood seriously, and this may be true for some but recently I've been thinking in this day and age of easy information and research maybe the parents have looked into the video game that their child wants and made an informed decision. Speaking to a few of the children at school on the matter some interesting points were made on the issue of age rating, a few children said that their parents allowed them to play Halo as they were killing aliens and there was no red blood, only goo coming out. Others said that they played the more violent games with their parents only and were not allowed to play it alone. Yet others said that their parents didn't mind the violence but it was the swearing and more adult material that they were protected from.

I have a daughter who is 23 months old at the time of writing and I am very conscious of what media I consume around her. I never play any video games around her but I hope that when I do I'll make sure her screen time is minimal as I know from friends that once you introduce electronics to kids that's it, they'll be very hard to focus on physical real-world activities. I'm not sure if I'm doing it right but I hope by making informed decisions I can help my daughter develop and consume media healthily and raise her to make her own decisions on what she knows works for her and what doesn't. There are no easy answers and in this day and ages when everything is available online I'd like to hope that she make informed decisions based on her knowledge of herself and her character, like my parents did for me.