The challenges to raising a geeky child.

I never claim to know everything about parenting but every once in awhile I think I have amazing ideas. Here is one of those times:

I have spoken before about how the hubster and I are gamers, him more than me but I know enough of the lingo of an MMO to get by. So it stands to reason that no matter what rules we have about out game play that the kids would see us playing time and again and would ask questions. Well that happened when we were invited into the beta for The Elder Scrolls Online. Veronica watched us and learned and wanted to try it out for herself and we let her.

As you guys can guess she’s a very special child and her nerdy-ness is starting to show, but it’s not cool to be nerdy in the 4th grade. So the first thing we did was to let her know that she was fine, that she was loved no matter what she took interest in, that she would be happiest being herself and not worrying about other people, that’s a hard thing for a girl to learn (no matter what the age).

So we let her play the beta. When we got a “bring your friend” invite to beta we gave it to her. We let her explore on her own, we explored with her, we sat next to her and watched, we did our best to give her roots and wings.

Then the big question came up. “Can I have my own account?” she asked. My first answer right off the bat was “no you are only 9”, but then I thought about it. If I could do this my way, where she didn’t feel bad for doing something she liked, but she still experienced life I might be ok with it. If she didn’t hide from life, but still lived it. If she used her imagination and explored both in game and out of game. This could make my lost GT girl not feel so alone in the world. Rules! I needed rules! No one writes rules for how to raise a geeky child. No one writes rules for what to do when your 9 year old wants to play an MMORPG, so I made my own.

Taking a page from the awesome iPhone Mom contract I made one that fit my needs. I made a gaming contract for my daughter Veronica.

Sure I said things in there I never thought I would have to tell her, and I “hopefully” covered everything she will encounter while she plays. I let her know first thing that I loved her, gamer or not. Then I made it clear to her that outside, real, in the flesh people always come first.

watching big sister
watching big sister

Dear Veronica,
I hope you will enjoy this Elder Scrolls Online account as much as your Father and I have enjoyed playing games together. I hope you realize that with an account like this, a lot of things will change in your life. I also need you to understand that it is my job to raise you into a well-rounded woman that can function in the world and coexist with technology and games while learning not to let them control your life.

First, like for me, this is a huge leap in acceptance of your nerdy-ness. This is also our way of expressing that we know and accept who you are and what you enjoy. Please don’t spend your life hiding from yourself and the things that make you happy.

There is a lot of new “territory” that comes with having a game like this available to you, so for your sake and for ours, your father and I have written up this contract. This contract is so you know and understand what we expect from you, both in and out of the game.

1. It is our game. We pay the monthly bill, we just let you play it. This means that what we decide happens to your account IS what happens. We will of course be respectful of your account and its contents provided you are respectful of our rules.

2. I will always know the password to your account. There is no further need for explanation. If I can’t get into your account when I please, you don’t have an account.

3. There are lots of people in this game; nice people, mean people, scary people, friendly people. To help you get started with the right type of people we have decided that for the time being you will only be allowed to join our “family guild.” This is our closest, most trusted family and friends. Feel free to talk to them, get to know them, and trust them. We let you around them because we know them and trust them.

3a. Sometimes they (and we) might say adult words and talk about adult things…..know the difference and don’t repeat them. If you don’t understand what is being said, thats a pretty good indication that you shouldn’t be repeating it (but do feel free to ask your parents).

3b. There may come a time where you feel the want/desire to join another guild as well as our family guild. Talk to us about it first. It is our job to protect you and while it may seem strange to you now, this is a part of that protection.

4. You still have a bed time! This might mean that you don’t get to play for more than 10 mins on some nights. You need to realize that real life responsibilities are more important than game responsibilities. This means there may be entire weeks between your play sessions, and that is O.K.

5. Chores and schoolwork always comes first! If your grades start to fall, your game subscription will end to allow you the time you need to focus on things that are most important. This is not designed as a punishment. This is our way of making sure that you spend your time wisely.

6. Real life people always come first! You will not leave a party, or not go to an event just so you can stay home and play. Spend time with your family and friends in the flesh.

6a. There will be “no play” days, when we all go outside and have a good time as a family. Remember in the end your family is always there for you, but part of that means you need to be there for them as well.

7. Do not use this the game to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or at least stay the hell out of the crossfire (also known as, don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong… especially where other people’s business is concerned).

7a. People will get into arguments in the game and say mean and hurtful things to other people. If you find yourself getting upset by a conversation, then it’s time to log off, find something else to do, and take a breather until you calm down. Realize that people do and say silly things because they don’t believe they can be hurt on the internet.

7b. Roleplaying – You’ve already gotten an introduction into Role Playing with your Aunt and Uncle at home and in Game Club. While this may seem to be lying or deceiving on the surface, it is not considered to be. It is an accepted means of interaction with like-minded people (like being a fairy at RenFest). If you are going to involve yourself in Role Playing in the game (pretending to BE the character and interact with people “as someone else) you will inform us who it is with and keep us updated with the stories that are unfolding. This goes back to protecting you. There are crazy people out there.

8. Do not say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with your parents in the room. Censor yourself! If your Uncle can do it, you can certainly do it.

8a. We will monitor all of the voice chat channels you are in, and talking to the people you talk to as well. This is about protecting you from crazy people, not about not trusting you.

9. Turn it off. You don’t have to play every second of the day. That raid will still go on, the flowers will be picked, and the game will still function without you. Most of the time what’s happening in the world around you is better. This doesn’t mean you can’t play a lot, it means be mindful of the world around you and don’t let life pass you by while you are playing a game.

10. There will be fun adventures happening in this game involving the people you play with (including your father and I). This will mean raids, major battles, and massive quests. If you want to participate, you are going to have to be good at this game. We won’t take you with us if you can’t keep up and pull your own weight. If we tell you that you won’t be able to go with us, do not be offended. Take it as a challenge to get good enough to go. Natsu wasn’t allowed to do S class jobs for a really long time in Fairy Tail. It was not because they didn’t like him, but because he wasn’t ready… there will be times when you aren’t either. This means if you want to go you are going to have to really learn how to play. So level up, get good gear, and think of killing mud crabs as practicing for those big exciting boss runs. If you have any questions about why you weren’t invited or accepted to go do something, ask. You may not always like the answer, but we promise to give you the truth.

10a. We (Aunt and Uncle) love you and want to play with you or we would not be signing this contract with you. So please DO ask to play with us when you have time. However, there will be times when we cannot play together due to real life and we are involved in something else. So when we say, “Not right now”, that does not mean you should ask again in five minutes. When we are done with whatever we’re doing, we will let you know and ask you if you would still like to play together.

10b. When you do ask someone (not just us) to play with you, make sure that you have the time to spend on whatever it is you’re going to do. Please be aware of how much time you have to play and make good decisions about what to get into. In Elder Scrolls when you step away, the rest of the group is sitting around waiting for you to come back rather than still playing. Now having said that, sometimes things happens and you do not have any control over it (like the internet cuts off, or one of your sisters gets hurt and you have to take care of her, or your parents ask you to do something).

11. Any attempts to circumvent, change, or bypass any of these rules, restrictions, or parental controls set on your account (without the prior consent of an adult whose signature appears below) will mean immediate deletion of the characters on your account, and the closing of said account. Playing this game is a privilege. If you abuse it, you will lose it. Permanently.

Finally you need to realize that this contract, after you sign it, is your word to us that you will follow our rules. If the rules change, or need to be added, we will come back and revisit them together. You will not be caught off guard by sudden rule changes. If you are treating people (especially outside of the game) with respect, and taking care of your business, then you will have nothing to worry about.

And interwebz do you know what magical thing happened on sunday when Pre-order for Elder Scrolls was opened? She was up at 5:00 a.m. and made a character and played, and then she went outside and went fishing! She fished, jumped on the trampoline, and played outside the rest of the day. When the sun went down she logged in and grouped with hubster and I, played for about 20 minutes and then logged off. She logged in for a few minutes after school today, but logged off to go to bed early.

So interwebz it’s a new challenge in the ever changing world of parenting, only time will tell if we handled it correctly.

I think Wil Wheaton would agree with me!


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