What can I say? It wasn’t my best Christmas moment with my six-year-old nephew.
He was ecstatic about receiving his first video-game style present, Big Buck Hunter, modeled after the much-loved arcade game I’ve found myself playing a time or two at a highway-side gas station or seen at a Cabela’s. Honestly, for the most part, the game is great fun for the whole family. Although the game is rated “Teen”, the manufacturer recommends the game for kids 7 to 15 years in age, and the box indictes that the rating is for some crude humor and for mild hunting violence.
Our box said that the game was appropriate for kids 8+, and for the most part, the game is very appropriate for that age range. Unfortunately, as with far too many games, this game would cut away from some fantastic rounds of shooting in the woods to a scoreboard flanked with one of two animated, scantily clad woman in boots, camouflage underwear and with a large gun in her hands.
Frankly, it was incredibly mild compared to what I generally encounter with games today, even games marketed to young kids, but the presence of these barely dressed women in what would otherwise be a fantastically fun family Christmas game made me snap for a moment. It was about the third time that she showed up, when I still had my plastic rifle locked and loaded when I uttered those words mindlessly under my breath, “Can I shoot the girl?” Frankly, I wanted her off of the screen and out of my family’s home. For good.
I didn’t want to have to have a conversation with four and six-year-old boys about why a woman in camouflage underwear kept showing up in the middle of our hunting game. But rather than ignore her or take a few moments to just explain her presence, I muttered something far worse. During the next round, the six-year-old then proceeded to announce “Hey, Cris! I’m shooting the girl!!” Of course, I had to apologize to him and tell him to stop shooting at the girl and explain that I just wish that she wasn’t on the screen, but the damage had already been done.
While it wasn’t my best moment, it was a reminder to me about how often sexual images and themes show up in apparently harmless places, and how we, as parents, aunts, uncles, mentors and teachers, must always be prepared, or at least try out best, to be thoughtful as we help our kids make sense of the world around them. We also have to dig deeper than manufacturer’s recommendations and even ratings and do our own work as much as we can so we really know what our kids are looking at.
If you sometimes struggle to know about how to talk about these issues with your kids, I would encourage you to take a look at our parent resources, and, if you’re like me, it might also be a good idea to make a recommitment to try to take a breath and think before you speak out of frustration and anger when you encounter needless, unwelcome sexual themes and images, especially in the presence of youngsters.