DEAR STEEL ADVICE: What is your opinion on violent video games such as "Call of Duty"? My kids tell me that all of their friends play them and they say it is just a game. But I don't like the violence and the message it sends in our society. Should I ban them at our house or have a truce and allow them to be played in moderation?
-- UNCOOL MOM
DEAR MOM: Your role is not to be the coolest mom on the block. A young child in the formative stages of distinguishing fantasy from reality should never play violent video games. If your child has recently believed in the Tooth Fairy, it is a mistake to expose him or her to a video featuring a person or a building being blown to bits. Children love the fun of pretending to be heroes or heroines when they play games and chase and capture bad guys. Technology has taken ordinary fantasy play one step further by developing very sophisticated video games capable of desensitizing an impressionable young mind to brutality and violence. It is your responsibility to check the ratings and reviews of the games you permit your children to play. Control what goes on in your home.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: My third-grader son made an inappropriate joke at school. We talked about it and he heard the joke the day before from a kid on his swim team. Basically he didn't understand what the joke meant. Should we contact the swim coach or the other kid's parents?
-- CONCERNED PARENT
DEAR CONCERNED PARENT: Third-graders want recognition and seek attention even if this means showing off or repeating what they do not quite understand but think is cool. Peer pressure and social acceptance are often bigger influences than logical thinking. The older child on the team became your son's daring reliable influence. You did the right thing when you talked to your son about the offensive joke. Continue to encourage him to think for himself and not mimic everything the other swimmers say or do.
Without making a huge issue and blowing what may be an isolated incident out of proportion, you should speak to the swim coach. Coaching encompasses more than imparting skill sets. The coach needs to know.
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