Despite the fact that Grand Theft Auto 5 depicts scenes of torture (the waterboarding, tooth-pulled-out-with-pliers kind of torture) and probably a lot of other things that developing minds shouldn’t be using for ethics fodder, I’m not here to be judgey. I mean it. You know your kids, and you know what’s right for your family.
That being said, there are a few pretty interesting lessons to take in when it comes to the hype and controversy surrounding GTA 5, whose most rabid fanbase seems to include a whole heck of a lot of 11-year-olds, for whom the game was certainly not (overtly) intended.
Take this video, for example, of an 11-year-old receiving Grand Theft Auto 5 as a gift.
I just wanted to use this time to ask you, all of you, to take pause and think about what Grand Theft Auto is teaching us about parenting, and the opportunities these kinds of situations open up for hearty discussions with our kids.
1. The Morality Talk
Before the Grand Theft Auto series came out, the claims that “there’s nothing in there my kid hasn’t seen anyway” would maybe be plausible. But in these games, the heroes are criminals. That in itself should be a huge springboard for discussion on morality.
Whether your kid ends up actually playing this game or not, if he or she wants it or has friends playing it, they know enough to talk with you about why society thinks games like these aren’t okay for kids to play. Are morals so loose at your kid’s age that a work of fiction could shake them? How impressionable are they, really?
What a great chance to talk about knowing the difference between right and wrong, and how media is constantly influencing our views.
2. ESRB Ratings
Whatever your approach may be in terms of which games you allow your kids to play, there’s no denying that the entire GTA franchise has led us to a society-wide debate on the importance of checking out the ESRB ratings of the games we’re letting our kids burn into their brains.
Here’s a video on the way games are rated and how to use the ESRB. Again, what’s right for your family is up to you, but I think we can all agree that it’s pretty important to stay informed.
3. The Nature of Media Hype
The GTA 5 release is a great opportunity to talk to kids about hype. If not getting the game has upset them, talk with them about why they want it so much.
Is it worth all the hype? How do they know? Will they even like the game if/when they play it? This is a great opportunity to talk to kids about choosing something because it’s right for them instead of choosing something because everyone else wants it.