Thursday, 13 March 2014


Picture the scene.  Your son is days away from his tenth birthday.   Double figures at last!  What a milestone!  You've been busy planning the celebrations for weeks and he can't sleep for excitement.  All he knows is that he will have to complete a series of challenges - and ten year old boys love nothing better than a challenge!  Everything is in place for a perfect birthday.

When he wakes up (far too early, of course) on his birthday morning, shaking with excitement, you swear at him.  Not just the odd 'not too bad' swear word either.  In fact, your whole speech is littered with foul language.  He's not sure what to think, but as you're the Dad he goes along with it.

"Come on then!" You shout to him as you prepare to begin the celebrations. "Get in the *%$* car!"

Armed with guns (real ones, not the nerf variety anymore), you set off on the birthday adventure!  First stop?  The local dealer.

No, not the antiques dealer.  You pass a spliff to your son and you both inhale deeply.  Today you're going to need some extra oomph.  First challenge complete.

It doesn't matter that you're now feeling a bit high, you drive off anyway.  Your son takes all his direction from you, and follows your every move.

The second challenge looks exciting!  Flashing lights decorate the doorway and your son wonders where you've brought him to.  Is it a shop that sells Christmas decorations?  Entering the strip-club, you are shown to a room.  Your son sits down with you as two women walk in, clothed only in G-strings, to perform a special birthday dance.  If he wants to touch the women, he is very welcome to.  He follows your lead as you drool and eat up the women's bodies with your eyes.  Second challenge complete.

Your son is a little bewildered.  He's not sure if these were quite the birthday challenges he'd had in mind.  But maybe this is what it means to be a real man.  And he really wants to be a grown up man.

Leaving the strip-club through the back door, you pass a man and a woman in the yard being filmed.  Completely naked, there is nothing left to your imagination.  And your son wonders why they are shouting.  Third challenge complete.

As you climb back in the car, a van screeches round the corner.  There's no time for seatbelts.  You put your foot down on the accelerator and give your son a gun to shoot out the window at the chasing van.  He shoots, several times, and the van veers into the side of the road - a crumpled, bloody mess.  He wonders why the van was following them, but has no time to ask questions.  He trusts you, his dad, to guide him.  You're proud.  Fourth challenge complete.

You park up outside a block of seemingly empty flats.  Your son wonders when he might have his birthday cake, but there's no time as you leap up the stairs to the very top.  He follows you, unquestioningly.  In a deserted room, you find a man tied to a chair.  In this last challenge, your son must extract information from this man in whatever way he can.  He electrocutes him, pulls out teeth and fingernails and waterboards him.  Each time he looks to you for approval, you nod your head and smile at him.  He's just being a boy, right?  Eventually, exhausted and in agony, the man in the chair gives up the desired information.  Challenge five complete.

Driving home after a day of birthday celebrations your son is confused.  What happened to the games and the party bags?  Where were his friends?  Shrugging his shoulders he accepts the fact that if his Dad thinks this was a great way to celebrate a birthday, then it must be ok.

Feeling a little uncomfortable reading this?  Wondering if this Dad should be reported to Social Services?  All these scenes, and more graphic ones I couldn't bring myself to write about, are straight from Grand Theft Auto 5 which is bought for and played by ten year olds and even younger.  If it makes for uncomfortable reading, then it surely must make for uncomfortable playing and viewing.

Dads, you have an enormous responsibility.  Your sons look to you.  They watch what you view on screens, what you read, what you laugh at and the way you treat women.  Whether you like it or not, you are their role models.  You are the ones who have this unique and privileged opportunity to guide the next generation of boys and show them how to be real, compassionate, loving, strong men. 

Please make your opportunity count.  Or we will all have to face the consequences.

(NB - I am very aware that not all video games have such a profound negative effect.  I am simply writing about an 18-rated game that is freely bought (by parents) for such young children who are not in any way old enough to cope with the content.)

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