The dangers of Internet, technology, etc. really seem to creep up on parents. One day your kids are playing little games and singing little songs about exploding pineapples with fountain pens and seemingly the next, they are asking if they can download cartoon versions of survival assassination games because “everyone is playing it.” We know it’s an issue, but it is so easy to trust our kids. And, I believe most of them are innocent. Sadly, no one can pinpoint the moment in which accidental exposure to harmful content will happen, or the moment that screen time turns from entertainment and education to obsession.
It reminds me of the old illustration of the frog in the kettle – if you turn the heat up slowly enough he won’t jump out, and will stay in the kettle and get boiled to death.

So what do we do when our kid comes and really feels the peer pressure to download the latest game, but it’s full of violence, and he knows that it’s probably not that good for him? We’ve had this conversation many times at our house, most recently over the game “Fortnite.” It’s dominating the Internet. The premise is that 100 people from all over the world, or maybe just your friends, get connected and enter an altered reality where they are dropped onto an island. The island has weapons hidden throughout, and the goal is to be the last one standing, literally.

Why would parents allow kids to battle 99 strangers, or even 99 friends to death? Well, apparently it’s “fun!” And, the initial download is free. It can be played on phones, tablets or computers so it can be taken with you at anytime. It has been reported that at any given moment there are approximately 3.4 million people playing the game. A simple web search shows article after article that document the compulsive behavior of players. Creators make $1 million per day just on the mobile versions of the game, with people buying special things to increase their chance of winning. The cartoon-like graphics and lack of blood after the killings keeps the warning rating low and parents thinking it’s “not THAT bad!”

In the book, Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman compares the similarity of military simulation training and video games. He discusses the fact that gaming and media violence creates a “will to kill through psychological conditioning, social learning, fear and trauma.” He states that “the overall lesson children take away is that when you’re in charge, when you have power, you have the ‘right’ to be a bully, a predator, an abuser and a thief.”

I realize that for many kids Fortnite may not create the change in temperature that causes the kettle to boil. I get it. But, I don’t think it’s ever too early to begin to explain how we develop our basic Christian disciplines. Can we really afford to risk making a mistake on these issues? It isn’t easy; it requires that we not only discipline our children but that we examine ourselves as well.

“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23).

 

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