Two gangs face off for war in the city streets. Explosions burst, blood flies and splashes, and bodies drop with sickening thuds.
A woman invites a man in for coffee and they have sex.
One of these appeared in a popular video game (many, in fact), bought by many children, the other was rendered inaccessible prior to shipment, and only discovered through hacking.
Now, which is more possibly damaging to children?
America’s sensibilities are completely flipped from pretty much every other first world country. In many countries, nudity, at least, a reasonable degree of it, is considered perfectly fine, while violence is more restricted.
In America, however, we show children gore and violence with wanton abandon, while forbidding them to see body parts that at least half of them have.
I have previously addressed the fallacious idea that violent media begets violence. I’m not flip-flopping on that. But whether violent media begets violence or not, it does have potential to cause distress in children.
And I’m not saying that we should be shoving Hustler into the hands of children. Hell, given how often sex is mingled with violence in mainstream lurid products, they would cause the same issues. But a scene with intimacy is far less likely to scare or scar children than one of bursting heads.
In the interest of full disclosure, assuming I ever have children, I’ll probably be a fairly liberal parent, gunning down hordes of pixel aliens alongside them, but also not punishing them or reacting negatively when they inevitably discover porn. But what I will be doing is the job of a parent, explaining and teaching them about the things they see.
And that’s the crux of the matter.
It’s a parent’s job to guide their child. They are there to contextualize the media they consume, to give them support and to tell them “shooting people in the face is not appropriate in real life.” Much as some people still treat them this way, TVs and video game consoles are not baby sitters, and cannot be given to a child without accompaniment.
I have heard people say that they would “never give their child that kind of game.” I grew up playing Doom shareware, and seeing “Judge Dredd” and “Starship Troopers” under the age of 12. The only reason I hadn’t seen “Alien” et al. before the age of 16 was that the movies bored my younger self (it was animated or nothing when I was a wee lad). Some might dispute this, but I turned out fine, because of the guidance and supervision of my parents. I may not be the colour of morality they would like, but I have well adjusted principles, thanks to them.