Is Grand Theft Auto suitable for a 9 year old? A guest post by @Pols80


I am HONOURED and utterly excited beyond words to host this sublime and very funny guest post by the wonderful @Pols80.

Whoah… it’s big in here, innit? Big and bright here, inside Spencer’s AWARD WINNING blog. Bear with me a sec while I compose myself and check my skirt isn’t tucked into my knickers or anything.

I’m no prude; my modest number of Twitter followers will attest to this. No, I am a woman of the world and am no stranger to the odd F-word or mention of The Sex. Nor am I a perfect parent; all of my children will attest to that. We won’t mention the Baby On Top Of The Wardrobe incident, or the Knocking The Boy Out With The Car Door incident. Nope, we’ll gloss over those. Also, I’m 32 years old, which means I’m old enough t do pretty much anything I want, except wear corduroy or take my teeth out at night. This means I can drink alcohol (anyone familiar with Drunk Pols might say this is no good thing), drive, vote and do The Sex. It also means I’m old enough to make educated(ish) choices… I’m mature enough to understand the complexities of relationships, to choose not to take drugs, and to be strong enough in character not to be easily led. Most of these things, I reckon, have come with age.

That’s really why I’m here – age,  age appropriateness and parenting. This week, my nine year old has been teased mercilessly because I won’t allow him to have any of the Grand Theft Auto games for his PS3. This game is an 18 certificate so he can’t go into a shop and buy it for himself, his dad and I were his only chance. I have to be honest and say I’ve never played any of these games, but I’ve done a bit of reading about them. The 18 rating, it seems, is there because the game features adult content. A lot of adult content. At the beginning of the newest game, one of the characters catches his wife in bed with her tennis coach. The games also feature drug deals, prostitutes and violence. Apparently there are extra points for killing women, and there’s even a special “up skirt” section. All in all, it’s fair to say it’s not a game for children.

Except my son is the only one of his group of friends who doesn’t have any of the games. Every one of his eight, nine and ten year old friends have at least one of them. Every one. Given that none of them are unnaturally tall or growing beards, we kind of have to assume that it was bought for them by an adult. Why would you do that? Why would any parent actively encourage their child to immerse themselves in this stuff? “Hold your horses, Pols” I hear you say. “Maybe they don’t realise what’s in it.” And that would be a fair point, Except, of course, that it’s pretty clear that it’s an 18 rating. Surely if you were going to buy something with an age rating like that you’d want to know exactly why it was intended for grown up eyes only? I mean, it’s probably safe to assume that it’s not so rated because it contains big long words and references to complex astrophysics type stuff. And then there’s the actual playing of the game. Unless these kids are left entirely to their own devices while they’re gaming (check me out, I’m so damn HIP with my jargon) then it’s likely you’ll catch the odd F-bomb at least. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t perch on the end of my little darlings’ beds while they zap aliens and build entire towns from bricks, but I do pop my head in and see what they’re up to.

So, that leaves us with the possibility that parents just choose to overlook all of that. I’m not really a judgey pants kind of parent. Probably because I’m usually too busy hiding the evidence of my own parenting disasters, but really… Why? I don’t see anyone taking their nine year old for a beer down the pub, or shopping in IKEA for some bits for their new bachelor(ette) pad, or helping them choose a wedding dress for their impending nuptials. Course they’re not. Those kids are too young for that. So why let them loose on a game that makes Trainspotting look like a Disney movie? I just don’t get it.

Meanwhile, instead of listing a Parent of the Year trophy, my kids are plotting my untimely demise for making them the odd ones out. Am I being a bit precious? Or would you be horrified to find your little darling racking up the points for a particularly slick drug deal? What say you? Would you let your 9 year old play the 18 rated Grand Theft Auto?

Update: September 26th.
Thanks for all the comments and RT’s of this post. It has stirred some debate which is wonderful, so for some other opinions and views, you might like to read these posts by @MyLifeAsAMummyx and @Dakegra

Thanks for reading.


45 responses to “Is Grand Theft Auto suitable for a 9 year old? A guest post by @Pols80

  1. Frankly I’m a bit dubious about my husband playing it but as he’s over 18 (physically, if not mentally) it’s up to him. But children who probably aren’t allowed into a PG film without an adult? Erm, no.

    • Why would anyone want to allow their child to (in a virtual world) have sex with a prostitute, and then beat her to get money back, listening sexualised wording whilst doing the dirty dead… Worrying, I think alot of parents are oblivious to the real extent.. And no I wouldn’t like my husband to play either (he chooses not to) My son (13) hasn’t even wasted his breath asking this time, boundaries are clear.

  2. We’ve had exactly the same sort of problems here. Although, not exactly the same as we “only” have a wii, but Wee Man was caught up with the older kids getting a bit lairy in the playground re-enacting scenes from Call of Duty.

    In the end the Head Teacher had to step in and there are now acceptable playtime games, that not being one of them. As to whether parents are in blissful ignorance, no I don’t think many of them are – sadly a vast majority seem to play these games with their offspring.

    I am no prude but my 8 year plays tennis, let’s dance and running from crocodiles when he is allowed on a games system.

    • Yikes, I remember being told off in the playground for playing those games where you clap your hands together and say a stupid rhyme – the teacher said we weren’t allowed to play them because they mentioned kissing! How times have changed…

  3. I have a ten year old son. One of his friends queued at midnight with his Dad to but this game. His Dad then allowed him to stay off school the next day because he was tired. He spent the day playing the game. Bad parenting in the extreme. Peer pressure has to be resisted – it isn’t easy. Bullying becausr of not owning the game is outrageous but happens. Hope your son is okay. Great post.

  4. Good post on a challenging issue. My sense is that the ratings are there for good reason and given the content (I have played the games before) I don’t think I would let my children play GTA until they are old enough.

    But I would do so knowing that I am a hypocrite. I watched 18 rated horror films when I was 12/13 and played a lot of computer games when I was much younger.

    A tricky one for sure.

  5. I thought the parents of my older sons’ 12 year old friends were bad enough – but 8 year olds! I had to intervene when my son was invited to a sleepover where CoD was going to be played. I called the other lad’s Mum and said I wouldn’t allow my son to take part. She agreed, without apologising, and was a bit snide talking about finding something ‘suitable’ for my son to do while he stayed. I think we are the only defence for our kids – games shops, other parents, schools can’t or won’t protect them.

  6. I read of a lady walking in on her husbands character getting a virtual lap dance! How could that ever be ok as part of game for a child? Hell no. And that’s exactly why it isn’t categorised as a game for children. They’ll grow up all too soon so we should preserve their innocence as long as we can. Great post Pols!

  7. Great post and I’m with you on this one. My son thinks its SO unfair that I wont allow him on these games. I am too baffled by the parents who do allow there children of 9 to play these games. I thought it was just my son exaggerating when he said ‘all’ his mates, but after chatting to some parents it would seem I am a spoil sport! Despite that Im still not backing down to the peer pressure on this one.

  8. Years ago, I was the only parent who wouldn’t buy a PS2 or Nintendo Gameboy for my kids, I held out. They did play occasionally when they were at certain friend’s houses but overall they survived. They played outside instead of being glued to some game. They are much older now, and we have talked about this, and they look back, and agree that mom and dad made the right decision. Now Grand Theft Auto is much different case but if I were you I would stick to your guns. The game is not appropriate for a 9 year old. Why must we make our kids grow up so fast by being subjected to things that are obviously too old for them. A 9 year old just isn’t mature enough for the game.

  9. Are you kids kidding? I don’t personally understand why *anyone* would want to play this game and certainly think you’re absolutely right not to let your son play it. Lots of parents unfortunately will do anything for a quiet life, but that isn’t really in their children’s long-term interests. The messages this game sends aren’t consistent with the sort of person you want your children to be. My parents didn’t get everything right, but they didn’t give in to pressure from other people to do something they didn’t want to do, and they taught me not to do so either and that is one of the most valuable things they did for me. Your son will thank you for bringing him up properly long after he has got over the desire to play this game.

  10. A subject very close to my heart. I have an ‘almost’ 11 year old who has begged for it because all of his friends have 18 games, I even blogged about it last year (no longer up). It is up to other parents what they decide, but personally I am appalled by young kids playing 18 games. They are not allowed in my home under any circumstances as the certificate was put there for a reason. Even a guy at the store selling games said he was shocked at how parents came in to buy these for young children.

    Only last week I had to virtually bash down my bathroom door where my child had been exposed to them at a friends, hadn’t slept, got over exhausted and then didn’t want to even shut his eyes because he kept seeing nasty things (he’d seen in the game). My son then thanked me for caring enough about him to protect him and say NO. Stick to your guns, all that violence, gore and bloodshed is not needed for children so young! Rest assured any time my child visits a friends now, it will be on strict understanding that my rules are upheld.

  11. I’m lucky at the moment that my kids are too young and they don’t even know what a console is. I can remember playing the very 1st gta where you just had to collect cars drive fast and not get caught by the police. There is no way I’d even contemplate buying these games no for me let alone the kids, I can’t believe people have been mugged for this game by kids!!

  12. It really worries me that these days the people who don’t want their kids playing 18-cert shoot-em-ups involving drug deals and prostitutes seem to be in the minority! The argument that it’s “just a game” and “fantasy” really only work when your character is an alien shooting other aliens – not something that could ever happen in real life. My daughter is only 17 months, and this sort of thing petrifies me for when she is older.
    That’s my opinion any way.

  13. Can not believe this is even an issue.

    It’s aimed at an over 18 audience for a reason, seen hubs play the games and thought they were rather disgusting.

    Can not believe some parents think these are okay for children of such a young age. I can understand being of two minds with a 16/17 year old, but under 10’s, really?!

  14. The game is great. But until you are of an age where you realise that GTA isn’t real life and you don’t ever treat anyone the way people are treated in the game (not sure all 18 year olds grasp this either…), you shouldn’t be anywhere near it. Additionally, some of the scenes are very sexually graphic. It has 18 on the box, why on earth would you give it to a 9 year old?!

  15. Absolutely no way would my kids – age 12, 9 and 7 – be allowed to play this game. I cannot understand why any parent would think it was OK and not be concerned about it. I’m lucky that they don’t ask to play. I don’t know if their friends play or not. I suspect they don’t, which is all good.

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  17. Censorship is something I am often torn over. However, this issue seems clear-cut to me. Violence, sexual violence, theft, drug-dealing, etc etc, are not suitable subjects for a nine year-old to be exposed to. I have no idea why anyone would play this game, let alone let their child play it at 9, 11, 15 or 17. When they are 18 they can choose to buy it but I’d like to think my moral guidance would mean they didn’t want to. However I do have a son and know there’s limited to zero chance of my moral guidance influencing any of his decisions. That’s kids.

    I think it’s sad that the parents of young children are allowing them to be exposed to this. I am already freaked out by the fact that my son will probably grow up with unrealistic expectations of sex due to porn culture, why would I perpetuate this at such a tender, impressionable and hormonal age?


  18. I am not entirely sure the game is suitable for any age, sounds positively nasty to me, so I am with you, no way my 9 year old will be getting it, nor will he be getting any games with an 18 certificate for a good many years yet! I am guessing the same parents who buy this game are the ones who allow 18 rated horror movies at sleepovers- that happened when my daughter was young, she had nightmares for a month and never stayed over at that particular friends again! I am a very liberal parent in many, many ways, but am utterly anti exposing them to this sort of violence. Like the commenter above said- a different thing when they are 16/17, but I am hoping they will grow up to be just as horrifed by this sort of game as I am!

  19. My son is M-A-D about cars and driving. And MAD doesn’t even come close to it. Anyways, he is 8 years old, and asked me for the game when it was advertised. I asked him how old he is. ‘Uhh, 8!’ I think he might have been unsure about whether I was tricking him, or if I’d really forgotten! I asked him what the age limit was on the game. ‘….. 18?’ He was still a little unsure of where this was going. ‘Cool!’ I said, ‘So you can play it in ten years time!’ That was the end of the discussion, and no further mention was made of it. He plays other racing games, but even that’s had to be time limited due to him getting just a *little* obsessed.
    Age restrictions are there for a reason. Nuff said.

  20. I just need to clarify – there are no extra points in this game for killing women. There is no point system whatsoever. You can kill men, women, whatever, but you don’t get points for doing it. You should probably amend that bit of your otherwise insightful and well written post.

    I’d also like to respond to the person upthread who said: “I think we are the only defence for our kids – games shops, other parents, schools can’t or won’t protect them.” In defense of game shops there is NOTHING they can do to stop parents buying it for children. There only legal recourse is to stop the children themselves buying it, and as they operate a Challenge 21 policy similar to alcohol sales even some adults get knocked back for buying it! As a manager for a gaming shop I see it daily, and it isn’t just GTA, it’s Saints Row, Call of Duty, Call of Juarez, Red Dead Redemption, Left 4 Dead, Battlefield, and all the other inappropriate age rated products I am powerless to stop parents buying for their children.

    There is an odd viewpoint towards games that they are all ‘Just for children, they’re just silly games’. I have no idea how anyone can still think this in this day and age, but they do, and as long as that viewpoint prevails, adult rated games will continue to be put directly into the hands of children and minors by their own parents.

    • Hi Maggie. Thanks for the clarification re: the points for killing women. I did try to double check info, but obviously I didn’t do it very well! I’ll ask Spence if we can edit that.

      Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated

      • It can be hard to separate fact from fiction with a game as controversial as this. Lots of misinformation about!

  21. So the reasons being that they feel that their children are mature enough to understand that it is just a game. That at least they are just in their bedrooms playing said game and not actually out on the streets really doing drugs/beating up prostitutes etc. I know this because I talk about this topic a lot.

    It is actually illegal to buy an 18 game for an under 18 to play (same as going up the bar buying a vodka and passing it down to a minor).

    I’m not a perfect parent and when my 14 year old (now almost 17) was asking for COD and his 7 year old brother was the only one in his class not to have it, we came to an agreement that if he could act grown up then he could play it. My husband plays the games and vets them first too. This new Grand theft Auto, however, from what I have heard is a whole different kettle of fish and goes well beyond the shooting/violence. Luckily my son isn’t interested in it. Incidentally we have lots of rules surrounding our teen playing an 18 game – which includes not playing it when there is a remote possibility that his younger brothers can walk in and see it. If his behaviour/attitude changes he has it taken away. It worked really well for us and it really helped him to grow up.

    I did my Dissertation on television violence – and actually the news is really bad!

    Great post, very interesting read. And oooh get you hosting it here 😉

  22. My husband is a lot more laid back than I am so I just asked him what he thought and thankfully, he agrees with me. Which is that this game is not suitable for a CHILD. I remember when he had his PS2 before it broke he had a few of the GTA games but would never play them when I was around as he felt uncomfortable doing so. To be honest, neither of us really see the appeal or understand why an adult would happily purchase it for a child?

  23. “It is actually illegal to buy an 18 game for an under 18 to play (same as going up the bar buying a vodka and passing it down to a minor).”

    This is inaccurate. The only legality involved is that under 18’s may not buy it themselves. Retailers can inform parents of the content of the game and why it’s not suitable but in my extensive experience virtually all do not listen.

  24. 1, you do not get points for killing women
    2, your children’s friends are LYING! No parent would get this for an 9 year old
    3, at 16/17 if your child does not know about drug dealing, prostitutes or bank robberies then this game wont be a bad influence, it will be a REALITY CHECK.

  25. Wow, so many comments! I’m surprised people even read it, never mind commented! Thank you.

    1. This is an error on my part. I did say that I haven’t played the game and have relied heavily on other sources for information.
    2. I’m afraid you’re wrong. I’ve spoken to several parents from my sons’ circle of friends who have bought this game for their children. I’ve also had children bring it to our house. Suffice to say it went unplayed.
    3. Perhaps you missed my reference in my title to nine year olds?

  26. The trouble is people think because its a game, its aimed at children. its not real, its like a cartoon. I know this because a family member has been letting her 13 year old son play games like this for about 5 years. The consequence is that he is scared to go upstairs by himself and still sleeps in his mums bed, I kid you not!

  27. I’m so shocked that people would buy this for young children. It’s a great game but strictly for adults only. My children are luckily too young for this type of thing to be an issue but I’m dreading the day that it is. I wouldn’t want them to be the odd ones out, but I couldn’t buy them something like GTA. It worries me too that people are happy to expose other people’s children to things that aren’t age-appropriate; if somebody decides to let their kids watch 15/18 films or play GTA then that is their decision, but they shouldn’t assume that other parents are happy to do the same. Harrumph!

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  31. As a gamer myself I’m thankfully aware of what is in these games as opposed to my girlfriend who has a 9 year old daughter.

    I’m now viewed as the evil imposter by the little one as I sat my girlfriend down and had a quick playthrough with some of the games her daughter had been playing…Call of Duty & Grand Theft Auto being amongst them. Thankfully that’s now stopped and she lives on Minecraft and Rayman. She still tries her luck with promising never to kill anyone and only to drive around. I’ve offered to buy her a racing game if that’s what she wants to do but she quickly changes her tune.

    The problem with the parents knowingly turning a blind eye is that it means the kids are out of the way and out from under their feet. Sure, on occassion this is a good thing – particularly when you’re having a bad day at work.
    But with the sheer number of hours kids spend on these consoles these days…well, that’s not what parenting is to me. It seems it’s “Let’s have kids who’ll live in their room and we’ll see them when they want something…namely food.”

  32. For his 10th birthday, my (now 21yr old) son wanted games for his shiny new PS2. I admit, some of them were rated above his age range, but none were 18+. My mother took him shopping for his presents from her and, despite the guidelines I had laid down, brought him home with a GTA game. I was beyond furious! She refused to take it back, telling me that since she was the one spending the cash, she got to choose what he got. Ooookay. I took it back to Woolworths the next day, opened and without the receipt that she had refused to give me, with the sulking 10yr old in tow. I asked for a refund and was told no (as it had been opened). I asked for the manager. After a long conversation in which he accused me of being a bad parent for buying it in the first place and came close to having his spectacles inserted rectally, it transpired that the ‘entertainment supervisor’ had sold the game knowing that it was for my 10yr old (who, by the way, was small and looked about 7) and that my dear mother had instructed my son to open the game so that it couldn’t be returned. We got a full refund, an apology and a free pic’n’mix.
    I’d say I won that one 😉

  33. My son is 9 years old i got him the ps2 for his bday bout a year ago from a mate of a mate who was selling the concole and 13 games cheap so i got it for him .among the games was gta liberty city and he got san andreas off a mate of his who had two copies of the game.i can tell u now it caused a hell of a lot of tantrums and problems coz he was playing it for god knows hw long before i finally heard what was on it and iv now taken it away but man the tantrums and crying is driving me nuts .it is NOT a game for kids its discussing! Sex,prostitutes,drugs,stealing cars,smashing people over and taking there cars from them and every time you kill someone money comes out of there pockets for you to take.and killing people the graphics are gross blood everywhere and discussing language!!. DO NOT let any kid under 17 play it and even then id try to keep them away from it as they will not learn anything from it except how to make a drug deal go smooth and how to hire a hooker!!

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