Historically, plenty of parents have forbidden their kids to play role-playing games. The usual reasons included fears that the games might attract kids to the occult — or make them lose touch with reality. One dad, a former RPGer himself, has an entirely different reason:
I hesitate to introduce my kids to role-playing games and the culture that surrounds them. This isn’t because I don’t want my kids to benefit from the creativity and imagination that flourish in role-playing games, but because I have observed that the health and fitness level of RPGers is disproportionately lower than any other peer group with which I have associated (note: I won’t deal at all with Live Action Role Playing because I know almost nothing about that community). This observation has led me to question how much I should be encouraging my kids to engage with a group/culture that places so little emphasis on activity and physical fitness.
He goes on to criticize the “RPG community” as a whole — and the parents introducing their kids to gaming in particular — for not encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits.
Parents who have experience with the kinds of toys, games, and influences their kids might be into have a special advantage in these situations: they know the culture. That can be both good and bad. In this case, the dad knows some of the benefits of gaming (“RPGs can enhance math, creativity, and problem-solving skills. … the integration of play with learning is recognized as one effective tool for teaching.”): Good. He also feels there are some downsides, but doesn’t see any way around them: Bad.
Here’s my take: I think you can go ahead and let your kids discover the world of role-playing games, and you can also encourage them to eat well, exercise every day, and so on. You can do this even if nobody else is doing it. (In fact, if you’re doing it, it might even catch on). He’s worried that the other gamers will lead by example. But he can lead by example, too. There’s certainly no harm in trying.
I know this particular connection (“RPG players tend to be unhealthy”) seems really far afield of the usual concerns parents have about kid hobbies, but it actually seems relevant for two reasons. One, parents are questioning all kinds of sedentary habits — TV, video games, computers — when it comes to their kids’ fitness levels. Two. blaming the games for kids’ poor health doesn’t make any more sense than blaming them for making kids lose touch with reality. They’re separate problems that occasionally travel together, and the perceived downside (poor fitness, psychosis) can be addressed, by parents, separately from the hobby in question. I know that takes more work than forbidding the hobby, but it’s worth it.
Parents: How do you handle it when your kid wants to play, or do, something that worries you? What’s your approach?