I was watching Ethan this morning as he was playing with a friend on the Playstation. A session of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare was in full play and the boys we're chatting about new video games, golf, going back to school as well as planning their next zombie assault. It got me thinking how different things are for kids today when it comes to media and whether that change is causing kids to mentally age faster.
The biggest difference I see is the prescence of media now. Everywhere we go, we have instant access to the latest news and headlines, trending topics and sometimes things that are just too horrifying to believe have happened.
I remember being the same age as Ethan and growing up in Canada. We had a record player, tape deck and a television. That was the extent of our media devices in the house. Most days my parents would get their fill of news from newspapers that they bought on a daily basis, but I never read those. I don't remember ever watching the news on television but I always watched cartoons like Spiderman and shows like Knightrider and the ice hockey was always on at night. I just don't remember the news at all.
Compare this with Ethan who has his own iPhone and a Playstation. He gets his fill of news from the BBC Newsround website which is news for younger kids. It's good because it explains what's happening in the world without complicating the story. They report most of the events that are in the news and explain why it's happening. We tend not to watch the news on television unless it's something serious but that's thankfully not happened for a while. If we are watching and Ethan sees it, we explain as best we can why it's happening.
As for exposing him to other media, we certainly draw the line on movies and games. Me and Jen use our own judgement when it comes to these but games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are out until he's older. The same goes for movies. There's ratings on them for a reason.
Most of us have probably played some kind of war based game as kids but when we did we drew on our knowledge from television and movies that we had seen. When we were kids and running about shooting each other we used our experiences from movies to feed our imagination. That has changed and the advancement of technology means that movies and games now have a better sense of realism. Whether it ages your kids mentally though is difficult to measure but I always like to err on the side of caution.
Controlling and curating the media that our kids consume doesn't mean they won't grow up fast, after all I'm sure he's getting an education in the school playground. It just means we're slowing down the rate at which they grow mentally and that's not a bad thing. There's plenty of time to experience what the world has to offer but as a kid you get more from using your own imagination. And I rather see that for as long as I can before they experience the reality of the world.