Sandra Dick: Losing battle protecting teens from video nasties

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TRUE confessions time. My 13-year-old son has been hanging out with car thieves, on the run from the cops, his buddies are thugs and a few are really not very good at flying a stolen plane.

I don’t need anyone to tell me that this is inappropriate behaviour because, yes, I know.

In defence, he wasn’t supposed to get his hands on a copy of Grand Theft Auto V. It arrived as a gift and quickly became the 18-rated elephant in the room, the source of endless arguments of him yelling “but all of my friends have it” and me countering with “I don’t care, you’re not playing it”.

After weeks of torture – teen tantrums spin for days creating a solid wall of misery that sucks the life out of everyone in the house – I caved in.

I’m not alone, for last week a report from the British Board of Film Classification confirmed that many parents have thrown in the towel when it comes to trying to stay on top of what strays into their children’s lives. Like me, they’ve found trying to batter away the stuff that crosses the line of what you feel is okay is a bit like attempting to drive the wrong way along the city bypass, blindfolded, without brakes.

“Parents are working hard to maintain control, yet feel that the tide of information and challenging content can sometimes be against them,” said the report. “Many have accepted that technology is in the hands of the young . . . the balance of power within the household has shifted.”

The BBFC is now trying to squeeze the genie back into the bottle by introducing slightly tighter guidelines when it comes to film classifications – even though controlling my teen’s cinema viewing is the easiest bit of all of this. It’s the phone, the laptop, the music video, the Snapchat and the Xbox that are much trickier.

Fact is, most parents care desperately about what creeps into their children’s lives. But constantly fighting the flood of inappropriate mush – from near naked pop stars writhing around in music videos, to the random horrors of YouTube, never mind the Xbox – pushes family life into a miserable quagmire where, at some point, compromise and common sense has to prevail or everyone suffers.

New controls by the BBFC are a starting point. But they are a drop in the ocean for us parents who feel the constant pressure and panic of trying to keep on top of something that frankly feels impossible to stop.

So, while he shoots ‘em up and steals motors, I’ll just carry on beating myself up.