Saturday, October 28, 2006

Who's Bullying Who?

Usually, when I get a phone call from my children's school superintendent, it is because he wants me to know that he hopes I'm safe after a hurricane or he thinks the staff working on the latest reason our employees are being paid correctly are doing a "great" job, or he wants my kids to go to bed early before the FCAT test. Although, these messages are recorded, I just know that he personalizes all 175,000 messages. This time, though, I got a message that made me realize that he does NOT know MY children. He told me not to buy "Bully" because it's negative influence could be detrimental to the well-being of my child. His message was a little reminescent of the "Church Lady" from SNL who related everything to the "work of the Satan."

Interesting article, by Daniel Vasquez, in the Sun Sentinel about this "Bully" video game. Vasquez takes a different spin on the "violent" game (which, by the way, he says is nothing compared to what is on South Park or The Simpsons).

Bully's real appeal is its usefulness as a tool for parents of teens to teach alternatives to fighting, and explore tough subjects like bullying, sexual relationships and the world of social cliques.

A parent can play the game with a child and help him or her work out each situation. You see what happens when you use fists instead of wits. A fistfight is rarely the best option, even in Bully. The game also teaches discipline by forcing Jimmy to budget money and time, and live with the rewards or consequences for each choice. One of the game's dirtiest tricks is that it sneaks in life lessons, like skipping classes will get you in trouble and misbehavior can get you extra chores. (Take that, teens!)
Interesting perspective. If parents can't figure out any other way to teach their kids to deal with bullies, then maybe an interactive video game is not a bad idea. Kids these days expect their media to be graphic and realistic. If kids go to ice arenas, movie theaters, bowling allies, and Dave and Busters, for example, they will surely encounter video games that allow them to take realistic-looking guns and shoot at realistic-looking people on the screen. Do these kids learn how to commit horrible acts from these games? I doubt it. They can learn that on YouTube! But are they becoming desensitized to people being shot, beat up and bleeding all over the place? More likely. And, is us making a big deal out of something a sure way to get our kids to take an interest? Definitely!

I really think the parents who will be swayed by the superintendent's phone message are the types who already try to monitor what their kids are viewing and playing, making the message an insult to our intelligence and parenting skills. The rest of the parents probably did not make it to the end of his long message. That is, if the parents got the message in the first place. I'd be interested to see if sales of the game went UP in our geographical area, after his message was intercepted by the students themselves.

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