Small Boy with Assault Rifle

Thanks To For The Pic

Last year, when my son was 3, I noticed that a number of the kids in his preschool class were wearing Transformers clothing. I began talking to another father that I was friendly with and asked if his son really even knew anything about the Transformers, since he was only 3 years old. The reply surprised me. “Oh yeah, he loves the movies. I think he’s seen the first one about 50 times.”

My mind raced through the film. An all-out attack on a military base in the Middle East – bodies flying everywhere. A sexy Megan Fox. Machine guns, explosions, death. Is this appropriate for my 3 year old to watch? My mind flashed back to my childhood. I remember driving 100 miles to see Return of the Jedi on opening night, at the tender age of 4. When I was older, we had a video store on the corner that I used to rent movies from, and I recall renting any movie that I wanted to see – even R rated movies – well before the age of 12. Does violence in the movies have an effect on our children?

We tried watching the Transformers with our son. I skipped all the parts I thought were questionable, and watched the robot fight scenes. They didn’t appeal to him, and we didn’t even finish the movie. Problem avoided.

Fast forward one year, and things have changed. Now, my son wants to watch Transformers. He’s more familiar with the franchise because he received some toys as presents, and the other kids are bringing the toys to preschool more often. We watched it again, and this time, he loved the movie. I was very open with him –  I kept asking if he was scared, if he knew what was going on, if he knew that it wasn’t real. He said he wasn’t scared, that he knew it wasn’t real, and that he liked it. We ended up watching Transformers 2 the next night.

Last week I was in the basement, playing the video game Assasins’ Creed. This game, set in the 12th Century features a lot of running, climbing, and swordplay. Some of the swordplay is surprisingly graphic – the swords penetrate armour and flesh, protruding from the other side of the victims. After one particularly difficult battle I heard a voice behind me say “Go Daddy!” My son had come into the basement and had been watching from the shadows.

Once again I had a conversation with him.  And again he told me that he knew it wasn’t real and that he wasn’t scared by what he saw. I’ve seen no increase in his aggressiveness toward other kids, and he hasn’t had any nightmares.

My parents were not models of responsibility, and I would never let my son do many of the things that I was allowed to do as a child. But, I wonder sometimes if we are too protective in this 21st century. Bugs Bunny cartoons on Teletoon Retro have disclaimers before they air because of the ‘violence’ contained within, as if our children were going to drop anvils on each other. Last night I was playing Call of Duty: MW3 in the basement and my son came down again. He cuddled up beside me and watched for a bit. Then he got bored, and went back to his mom and sister.

I’d love to get my son interested in Star Wars. He’s the age I was when I was introduced to it, and I have fond memories of the series. In talks with other dads I’ve learned that they also feel this is the age to introduce them to ‘The Force’.

So, what to do? Well, I think we need to take that PG rating seriously – parental guidance means asking questions, talking to our kids, and making sure that they are okay with what they are seeing. There is obviously a moving line for this type of thing – what will be okay for one parent may be completely taboo for another. But in many ways, I think that as long as you are aware enough to be asking the questions, that you are probably responsible enough to make the right decision for your kids. In my case, I bought a copy of Transformers 3 to finish off the series with my son. And I’m looking for Star Wars on DVD. But I think I’ll keep those Sylvester Stallone movies locked up tight for a few more years.

I’d love to hear what you think.