Earlier this week, Mark Earley told you about the dangers associated with some of most-sought-after items on your kids' Christmas list. If the pornography industry has its way, that state-of-the-art cell phone will be used for more than talking to friends.

And the problems are not limited to presents that our kids can put in their backpacks. Some of the worst stuff may find its way into your living room or your kid's bedroom without you being the wiser. I'm talking, of course, about video games.

Concerns about video games are not new. Such concerns forced the industry to adopt a rating system for its products: rating from "E" for "everyone" to "M" for "mature." The problem is that the outfit doing the rating, the Entertainment Software Review Board (ESRB), is a subsidiary of the video game industry.

Little wonder, then, that the media watchdog group Media Wise gives the ratings an "F" for accuracy and retailers a "D" for their enforcement efforts. Combine that with what the group calls a "widening gap between what kids do and what parents know," and you have a system that is "beyond repair."

This does not mean that you should not let your children play video games, at least in moderation. It does mean that you need to do your homework before you head to the mall. And if the rating system is "beyond repair," where do you turn for information?

Fortunately, groups like Media Wise can at least tell you what to avoid. The group recently issued a Video Game Report which listed twelve games that parents should "keep out of the hands of their children and teenagers."

In one of the dirty dozen, "Stubbs the Zombie," your child assumes the role of a revenge-seeking zombie. And the zombie not only kills anyone who gets in its way, it also cuts open their skulls and eats their brains.

Then there's the "Grand Theft Auto" series. As the title suggests, the game is played from the point of view of a car thief. But the fantasy does not stop there: Money and points are gained by causing as much mayhem as possible, including running people over and murdering city officials.

I agree with Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) when he calls these games "an assault on the value structure and discipline of our society." Like him, I fear that "much of what we do" as parents to raise good kids is "undercut by the worst of these games."

Neither Sen. Lieberman nor I is saying anything so extreme as playing "Grand Theft Auto" will lead your kid to run people over with the family car. We are merely pointing out the obvious: What we see influences how we think and feel.

If this were not true, there would be no advertising industry. And besides, in our media-soaked culture, there is a whole range of alternatives that we can choose instead of these games.

So, before you pull out your credit card, ask yourself how much you know about what you plan on putting under the tree this Christmas: Is it the stuff of wise parenting or an assault on everything you hold dear?


Copyright © 2005 Prison Fellowship

BreakPoint is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the  Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Reston, VA 20190.