Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. No one said it was easy and no one is always a 100% a perfect parent. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s normal, what isn’t normal is trying to shame parents for sharing their stories and hopefully making others realise that they are not alone.
I recently featured on national TV in the UK and have been asked to appear again to discuss the trials and tribulations of living with a teenager who is hooked on playing on a games console. I made a point of not reading the comments and not replying to those messages that have managed to end up in my personal inbox. I knew there would be harsh opinions about my story, and everyone has a quick fix measure as to what they would do instead.
But, my point of stating, this happened, I was a crap parent at the time for not realising, but you know what? I’ve realised what the problem is and I have handled it in my own way which now has given my son a better understanding of technology and addictions.
I was, at the time, unaware of Fortnite and how addicting it could be. Micro transactions were something I thought were limited to the likes of candy crush and other mobile games. I was unaware of the peer pressure that surrounded the game as it was something that did not interest me. I am now fully aware of the game and everything that has evolved from it, from the rise if free-to-play games on console to the overtaking rise of Epic Games (The creators of Fortnite) on the games industry which is causing waves within the online gaming world.
Does this make me a bad parent and someone who should be called out by other parents telling me that I should, give my son up for adoption, force my child to go to mainstream school, smash the Xbox, that I should expect to be linched or attacked in the street if I am seen, or even kill myself for sharing my story? Keyboard warriors who look in from the outside with a 12 minute look into my life who know nothing about my full story and why I agreed to go on TV – and no, it was not for the money – the TV appearance fees are not amazing, trust me.
No, it makes me human. It makes me normal. I was slated for letting my child play with computer games at a young age, how many parents give kids an iPad or tablet with ABC games, games or interactive Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig? I am guessing at least 70% of parents do this at some time or another. Go into many pre-schools and there will be interactive whiteboards at kid height for toddlers to play with. How many parents let their kids play with Snapchat filters and take silly selfies with them?
I also was slated for allowing my son to play other games which were not age appropriate and that this was my downfall as a parent and why I should do harm to myself. I actually pride my late parents with educating me about age related content in movies games and tv from an early age. I was raised in a very liberal household where no topics were taboo and I have continued this parenting method on with my son. He is aware that games are games, movies and games are made by teams of people and that watching the national news or being on social media can actually be more frightening than the make believe of games and movies. Only the parent knows the maturity of their child and will know if they should or should not play a game or watch a movie. Others can judge, but when that judgement comes at telling you to take your own life, it’s going a step too far.
Instead of judging, try understanding. Listen to the message which is being discussed and it is from instances like mine that now games creators like Epic Games and EA are being pulled in front of the UK government to answer questions as to allegations that they have created games with addiction and micro transactions in mind with the view to deliberately suck a young audience in and by using public figures on YouTube to promote the games, it creates an even greater pull for younger audiences.
Maybe it should be the games companies that answer to the internet trolls and keyboard warriors who think I should have killed myself?
Love, hugs and games controllers