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My child and I are both "gamers". He has a handheld gaming system, we both play together on a console, and, when I have free time, I play on my PC. Sometimes when I am playing on PC, his interest peaks so I'll let him sit beside me and watch.

Recently though, I have gotten into a game on PC that I don't really want him to watch me play. It's pretty gory and I don't think he's ready for that. It also has some dramatic, non-sugarcoated depictions of war that I also don't think would be well-suited for him or any other 7-year-old. On PC, I can hide that I have these games pretty well as he doesn't have access to my library, but on our console, he seems all the games in the library when we start it up.

This also goes for other content that my wife and I would watch together (think Netflix) but don't think would be suited for a child. He sees that library of media too when he watches his kids shows for his 1-hour screen time.

What is an all-encompassing way that I can tell him or we can tell him that some content he just isn't allowed to watch/play until he gets older, or better yet, more mature?

  • Your goal is to make him understand why he's not allowed to watch it, so he doesn't pursue it on his own? Has there ever been something that scared him (for example causing nightmares)? Nothing too traumatic, maybe a movie or so (for me, that was E.T.), you could take as an example of how he would react to that adult content also? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica May 19 '18 at 10:31
  • Trying to understand so a question: do you think he's old enough to drink alcohol or to decide whether he should go to school on any given day? Do you have difficulty explaining to him why he can't? In essence, how is this different? That will help me to understand your question better. – anongoodnurse May 19 '18 at 12:52
  • @AnneDaunted Precisely. Today one such situation popped up to where I wouldn't let him watch something. We've never really put a restriction on it up until today. I just want to know how to frame it to where he'll understand that watching something like that could negatively impact his mental well being at his current age. Also, some content has foul-language which I don't want repeated. – SomeShinyMonica May 19 '18 at 12:56
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    Is it a silly question? Laws exist for the welfare of children, not for the sake of an authoritative state. There's much more to what we do/don't do than law. There are moral and ethical concerns, the ability and maturity to choose wisely, the ability to anticipate consequences (which is the basis of what you're asking now), etc. About school, I wouldn't say, "You must go, that's the law." I would explain the purpose of school and why it will benefit him more to go than to stay home and game. – anongoodnurse May 19 '18 at 13:49
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    @SomeShinyObject: If your son sees you drink alcohol (a beer for example) and asks to have one as well. You deny that and he asks why. What would your response be to that "why" question? Why would that response be different when it comes to adult content? – Bart van Ingen Schenau May 19 '18 at 19:41
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He has a handheld gaming system, we both play together on a console, and, when I have free time, I play on my PC. Sometimes when I am playing on PC, his interest peaks so I'll let him sit beside me and watch.

This sounds like a really good starting point. You're playing together, so it's a kind of social activity you share.

This is very different from, say, giving your child a gaming system and then letting him play for 30 minutes or an hour a day without supervision.

My advise would be to simply not let him play or watch media on his own at his age. You just have to tell him certain shows and games are off limits to him at his age because children can't understand the content yet, even if they think they do, and it might be bad for their minds at their age, in the same way that they shouldn't drink alcohol yet because it's a kind of poison for their brains.

You can also tell him that there are things you don't watch, even though you're an adult, because you're afraid it will damage your mind, too. I learned this the hard way. I used to think images couldn't cause long-term damage. Until I clicked on an image link on some dubious news site after reading a short description, and it took me to a picture of a child that had been run over by a fully loaded truck. I can't ever unsee that image now. So I don't go looking at things I'm sure I don't want to see, like for example the videos of the beheadings the IS produced. Maybe your child has seen something that shocked him once, lets call it incident A, and you could take that as a starting point to explain that there are even worse things to see than incident A, which he will be able to see if he really wants to later on, when he's older, but for now you're sure it would hurt him to see these things, because it clearly hurt him to see incident A.

[Somewhat OT: Now that I think about this, I see this might be connected to a much larger educational topic - you might use this as a stepping stone to talk about how we decide who we want to be. Who we want to be is connected to what kinds of things we do and what kinds of things we don't do. Usually this concerns things we don't do to other people - like hitting them when they're already crying in a playground fight, or stealing your little sister's ice-cream because you dropped yours, etc. Doing these things would make us bad persons, so we decide not to do them even if we really want to. But we can apply this to ourselves, too - there are things we shouldn't do to ourselves, because we would hurt ourselves, and change who we are in the process.]

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In a comment expanding on the question, you state,

I'm looking for a method that is kind of concise and closes the matter immediately rather than the chain of "why's" that I know I plagued my parents with when their answer was just straight up "no because we said so".

Please read this in the spirit it's given, because it sounds rough.

There is no better way to shut down your child's "whys" than with an authoritarian answer ("Because I said so"/"the makers of this video rate it PG13/whatever, and you're only seven"), unless it's to offer them something they'd rather do instead ("No, you can't play this game, but how about we go to the store and pick out a new game for you?"), which only postpones the issue. That's why your parents and mine and so many others resort to answering "Why?" that way. Which is not very satisfactory to a kid.

So, to answer your precise question, pick an authoritarian answer. If they ask "why" ad nauseam after you've warned them to stop, they've earned a time out.

Note, kids who are secure in your love for them will ask why anyway, because they actually want to know why they can't do something they want to do.

I propose something I believe is better for the long run: just explain why they actually can't play the game. If you consistently give them reasonable answers with your refusals, they will learn that you actually have a decent reason for saying no, and might not keep asking why. Or not.

This has two benefits: it treats the child as though their feelings and desires matter a lot to you, and it makes you examine your own reasons to deny them, helping you to avoid knee-jerk "No"s.

An example: My kids ask me if they can jump off the shed roof. To answer this honestly, I would say,

No, you can't, because I'm afraid you might hurt yourself.

It becomes clear to me that my fear is what I'm treating as most important to me. So I reconsider, weigh the risks, and say, "Ok, sure, but you have to go off sitting down on the edge of the roof (decreasing the actual terminal velocity, and therefore the risk of injury.)

I would recommend, then, that you figure out the reason you don't want your child to do something and answer all the whys yourself before they ask you next time. Then just tell them the truth.

This actually happened. Of six kids playing together, only one got hurt, and that was because she fell out of the tree used to climb to the shed roof. It wasn't serious, and I was able to fix it.

  • I'm a bit unsure how to understand this answer. It seems like in the beginning you are advocating an authoritarian approach ("There is no better way to shut down your child's "whys" than with an authoritarian answer" and " pick an authoritarian answer") but then you go on to say otherwise: that authoritarian answers are not as good as answering truthfully and being mindful of your own motivations. So do you mean these things are not mutually exclusive (you can be authoritarian and mindful) or is there another link between them? I can't really tell what side you're advocating for, if any. – user30275 May 19 '18 at 22:53
  • @Stacey - "It's probably better in the long run to just explain why they actually can't play the game." Authoritarian answers do work to shut kids down. But that doesn't feel good to a kid. I recommend taking the time to answer the whys. – anongoodnurse May 20 '18 at 3:31

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