Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Personally, I'm More Afraid That They'll Pick Up Bad Spelling

When it comes to the dangers that young people face outside the home, apparently parents rank videogames as a greater threat to their children's well being than traditional sources of sin, such as smut and liquor. According to "Parents Fear Video Games More than Porn, Alcohol," a new study from What They Play indicates "drinking beer and watching pornography were less objectionable activities for children than playing certain video games."

Three things to note about this study:

A trip to the What They Play website indicates that the site heavily promotes Disney products and has a "games from our sponsors" section, unlike many such parent advisory sites that assume the pose of a public safety nonprofit (which I have argued is often disingenuous anyway).

This is apparently the same group whose polling made the pages of USA Today with a graphic that showed that "two men kissing" in a videogame was more objectionable than the sight of a "graphically severed head."

The desire to shield children from certain kinds of videogames is patently unrealistic according to the authors of Grand Theft Childhood, since not being invited to play such games with friends is actually often an indicator of poor social integration and cultural isolation that can be tied to poor performance.

I might argue instead that digital parents are ignoring more subtle yet important aspects of their children's online lives. For example, are they good spellers? Or do they come off as ignorant to their text-messaging peers? You would be surprised at the amount of mockery I overhear among teens about bad spelling, even in an era in which it is considered inappropriate to poke fun at other kinds of learning anomalies. Of course, this ridicule of bad spelling in the electronic era takes place in grown-up culture as well.

In short, when it comes to worrying about software with harmful long-term effects, parents might want to think about spell-check rather than GTA. Thanks to Robert Moeller for the YouTube video.

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