Kids and gaming: Why play it safe when you can chainsaw your ex?

OPINION

So one-third of preschoolers own smartphones or tablets, according to the latest Australian child health poll.

Is that a worry?

My kids behave differently when they’ve been playing a lot of computer games, or watching a lot of TV. Most notably, the more they play the more they want to, and the harder it is to motivate non-screen activities.

And attempts to take the game away are resisted with force and fierce noises.

I’m not against screens altogether. I can’t deny the entertaining and slightly educational Moto X3M series, the DIY creativity in Minecraft, the gorgeous brain immersion of Prune and Monument Valley, and the puerile absurdity of Goat Simulator. Yes, my taste runs lo-fi; last week we used Pong to learn the law of reflection.

It’s all about supervision. When a laissez-faire approach is taken I wonder whether that’s for us adults’ sake or for the kids’. Kids are adventurous and they like to push the boundaries. And it can slip so easily.

My six-year-old’s friend was visiting recently and they were playing Cool Maths Games – an educational games site. But while the clothes were being hung on the line, with a few clicks – and all despite our internet filter – they’d found Crazy Games and were playing Whack the Terrorist. Prevent a baddie from detonating his explosive vest: after slicing his throat with a broken bottle, grill his face on a barbecue, or call an Alsatian to rip him to pieces!

The similarly charming Whack Your Ex lets you try out ultra-violent ways to send off your former flame – with maximum prejudice. All-star tactics include pumping faeces into her face, blowing him in half with a bazooka, cutting her face off with a chainsaw, or beating her to death with a laptop.

And Whack Your Neighbour! When he complains about your dog, throw chisels in his eyes, burn him, and use the hose to give him an enema so long he explodes!

All in good fun, sure. Sure?