Monday, June 20, 2011

Should Kids Play WoW?

I was reading the forums the other day and I came across a post that asked if anyone knew of any add-ons that would assist with making WoW more child friendly. He stated that he had disabled all but a handful of chat features (things such as general, say, and trade). It was an interesting forum post to read as so many people had so much to say about it. The comments ranged from him being a bad parent to it being great that the family wanted to play together. So it made me start to think about when is the appropriate age to play Wow?

So let's take a look at what the biggest fears of allowing children to play are:

  • Addicted
  • Exposed to Inappropriate Material
  • Unhealthy

These were the three most common complaints brought up in the forum post that had valid points to them. So let's examine these three fears a little more closely.

Addiction is a legitimate concern with WoW. There are countless articles and reports that have been done on the subject. So is there a danger to a child exposed to WoW at an early age becoming addicted to it? I think that there could be, but it is the parents responsibility in this situation to not utilize WoW as a substitution for their attention. In other words, the parents must make sure to maintain a healthy mixture of activities in the child's life. Is it unhealthy to have a child doing sports? I think we would all say no, that sports are extremely healthy. What about when it is the driving force in someone's life? Why do you think that we see people who will risk their health in order to take "performance enhancing drugs"? They do this because they want to be the best. They are driven to excel and when they reach their own physical limitations, they then resort to utilizing these substances to take them beyond their own limits. Why do they risk it all? They risk it all because at the very root of the issue is that they are addicted. Not just addicted to the actual drugs, but rather to the feeling they are getting from the drugs. Naturally we could substitute any sort of drug into this, but addiction comes in many different forms and not just in a little pill.

The second legitimate argument was in relation to the content of the game and if it is appropriate for young children? This is something that is mildly concerning due to the mild language that is used in some of the narratives during some the newer quest lines that take place in locations like Silverpine Forest. While there is not much that you can do in these situations to lesson the impact, I have to ask if we are so naive that we do not believe that our children are going to hear this kind of language elsewhere? If anything, the language found in WoW is not nearly as bad as when we are just scanning cable channels looking for something to watch. Let us not forget about the older kids in school who find it cool to use language that we adults deem to be improper. Also, we should remember that perhaps not everyone views certain phrases and words to be offensive and so their children may be using this language already. So while we want to think that we live in a perfect world, I think we need to face the facts and actually start to listen to the sounds going on all around us.

Others associated this second concern also with the community which has several individuals on every realm who enjoy spewing as much inappropriate material in the general and trade channels as possible. To me, I do not worry so much about the issue of the community since Blizzard provides the tools to be able to turn off any number of the communication channels. This will effectively remove the community at large as an issue, but I felt it worth noting here at least.

The last major point of concern that I felt presented in this discussion was the question of is it healthy to let a young child play WoW? I think the simplistic answer to this question is that it is as healthy as you make it. If you play it, or allow a child to play it, all the time with no other activity, then it is completely unhealthy. However, if you limit your child to just a couple hours a week, then you are in fact teaching the child to develop a healthy habit out of playing all video games.

I think after having spent some time truly thinking on this subject the answer comes down to creating a balance in a child's life. Too much of anything is unhealthy in my opinion. I have spent the time thinking about this subject because my son has expressed an interest in playing WoW with us as well. To this point we have not allowed him to do anything more than mess with my wife's Hunter in Dalaran. We have decided though to use the ability to play WoW as a reward for behaving good throughout the course of the week. I sat down with my son on Father's Day and together we created a character especially for him. We explained that if he behaves throughout the course of the week, then on Saturday we will permit him to play WoW for an hour with us. As he gets older and is able to comprehend things better, we will then look to expand the time he is permitted to play throughout the course of the week. So what are your thoughts on this subject? Good, bad, or non-issue?

P.S.: I will not be noting the name of my son's character.

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