Parents are not your scapegoat

A guest editorial by an anonymous store clerk complains that he (or she) has sold far too many copies of GTA V to parents buying the game for their kids:

Last week my store sold over a thousand copies of GTA V, at least a hundred of which were sold to parents for children who could barely even see over my counter.

I’m suspicious of these numbers. They certainly aren’t enough to suggest a trend because there’s no information here on how many parents decided not to buy GTA for their elementary-school child. I consider myself a reasonably good parent, and yet I did not march into every GameStop in town to announce “my six-year-old is not allowed to play Grand Theft Auto.” Most aware parents probably also failed to do this.

So it’s not a study. It is anonymous, undocumented anecdote by an amateur Andy Rooney. Gamers, a favorite scapegoat for the pro-gun lobby, are just looking for a way to pass blame on. Games don’t kill people, bad parenting kills people.

So we’ll blame parents buying violent games for young children. But how does our store clerk know this is occurring? The clerk sees parents in the store buying a mature game in the presence of a young child and … speculates:

I mention things like a game having a first-person view of half-naked strippers or that the game has a mission that forces you to torture another human being. In response, I often hear things like, “Oh, it’s for my older son” or “All his friends already have it.”
Then I wonder to myself how often the youngest child watches the “older son” playing and if “all his friends” were to jump off a cliff…

Parents get this all the time and it drives me batty. Someone hears a child screaming in a restaurant, and they post something snarky about bad parenting to Facebook. A child doesn’t speak with the right amount of deference, and they go all “in my day” about how they were raised to respect elders.

Yes, there are bad parents. But you do not know a child’s situation or a parent’s skills based what you witness for ten seconds in the mall. You have no grounds to judge that parent, and you certainly have no grounds to judge the general direction parenting is taking in this country. Absent data, it’s just fantasy, grousing, and scapegoating.

More: I thought this comment was a great counter-anecdote.

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