Would You Let Kids Watch Combat Videos?

Ranger on target

Confession:  I let my 11-year-old play M-rated Call of Duty.  When his 19-year old brother is around, the boys play Call of Duty together.  I know, I know, I know.  I am a horrific mother.  That is already a given.

I tell myself that it is only a video game.  It isn’t real.  I wouldn’t let my boys sit around watching real combat videos on YouTube.  I wouldn’t let them watch real things happen to real people.  Would I?

This week I was working on a column about the brouhaha that surrounds a combat video taken by PFC Ted Daniels, a soldier who served in 4th Infantry Division in Afghanistan. Daniels is injured in the footage. More than 23 million people have viewed the video prompting questions about how combat videos should be used.

But one stray detail in the Washington Post story got to me. Daniels intends to share the video with his two sons.

Daniels imagined that some day he would sit with his two boys and play the video for them, just as he had done for his father. The best way to preserve the footage, he decided, would be to upload it to a private YouTube channel.

Is that a good idea?  Personal camcorders and helmet cams have been abundant in this war.  In so many of our homes, real war footage is on a hard drive somewhere.  Or it is on a flash drive floating in a drawer.  Or it is uploaded to a private website waiting for a kid curious about their father or mother to come looking for it.

Will you let your kids watch it?  Will you let them watch the combat videos of strangers? And if not, how are you planning to prevent that?

Since my husband is in the Navy, we don’t have any combat videos of our own.  That won’t stop my kid from seeing it. My fifth grader is a child of the digital age. The boy can play Minecraft on the Xbox, watch a YouTube video game tutorial on the computer, keep an eye on the Backyardigans(??) on Netflix, eat a chicken sandwich, and tell me about his day all at the same time.

We have all the parental controls set up on the computers. (I contacted YouTube to make sure combat video is one of the things that is age restricted–it is)  I do my best to keep a lid on the video games.  But I have raised two teenagers already.  I was, in fact, a teenager.  I know for sure that there will come a point where my son’s generational skill set will far outstrip my ability to control him online.

If he wants to find video of real combat, he will—the same way I found gory Jack the Ripper photos at the library and sneaked into R rated films so I could check out the sex scenes and figured out how to get wine coolers without a valid ID. (Sorry, Mom).

Coming from a military family, I know my son will be curious about war.  I just can’t see myself sitting down with him and saying, “Let’s look at these combat videos together, shall we?”

Maybe it is a generational thing. My own father did two tours in Vietnam. We didn’t talk about his wartime experiences until I was in my thirties.  All during my childhood I was aware that somewhere in our box of family movies my dad had these reels from Vietnam that my mom called “nothing but planes.”

We never watched those.  Maybe because it was hard to set up the projector.  Maybe because the reels really do have nothing on them but planes.  Maybe because it is one thing to take combat footage and another to sit down and show it to your child.

This is one of those questions our generation of military parents and tech-savvy kids will deal with in the coming years. When you come up with a good answer, will you let me know?




About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.

5 Comments on "Would You Let Kids Watch Combat Videos?"

  1. sabrinacking | February 21, 2013 at 3:07 pm |

    I am not a psychiatrist, I don't even play one on tv…but I have two reactions…1) the same Whoa!, can exposing them to his trauma in a secondary fashion such as that possibly be good for them? It probably is age specific, maybe he meant to share it when they were adults. 2) the second thought I have is, thank God he wants to share his experience, so many vets suffer in silence, and that silence, even absent any of the more dramatic components of PTSD can traumatize a family. Like you, my Dad rarely talked about Vietnam, but he had some issues which affected all of us and his many resulting wives. Only now, watching my own husband, having experienced these two wars as his wife am I learning real compassion for my Dad, who for years I just thought: how does someone get THAT messed up….well…now I know.

  2. sabrinacking | February 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm |

    Somehow I am liking all my own posts as I comment…sorry about that, I don't know how to undo it.

  3. JERSEY ANGEL 1 | February 22, 2013 at 10:12 am |

    I'm the mother of six grown children. These children grew up on a military base, and were born during the Vietnam War. They had and played all that was out there at the time. In fact, there have been wars and rumors of wars ever since I was born. Girls and Boys played cops and robbers/cowboys and indians/ king of the hill and played dead during my childhood. It was nothing. My children and myself knew what was real and what was not. My grandsons play video games of all kinds. They have not changed in any way. We have and are brought up to know right from wrong, and what is necessary and what is not. I think all of it has to take into account of the child's makeup and mindset. If a child is brought up in a family that has good family relations and not too many 'upsets,' a child will do well. The thing is children adapt, and it has to be in his character to be as well adjusted as he/she can be.

  4. What for? they already get to see at least 10 people a day die on normal TV viewing,

  5. Ethan Williams | March 30, 2013 at 6:02 am |

    Video games and movies do nothing to effect what a person does. the relation between child and parent is the deciding factor. My mother used to not allow us to play "shoot the other person games." Even so my brothers and i still did and we did not go out trying to kill other people. In fact now a days my mom allows my little brother to play any game he pleases because she has seen a different way of looking at it. Now she looks at it as a learning experience for strategy, eye hand coordination, and other things.

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