IN THE CHICAGO AREA? Rosalind Wiseman will speak Thursday, September 19 at Glenbard North High School  and Friday, September 20 at New Trier High School. For her other book tour dates, click here.

m&WcoverBoys are MUCH easier to raise than girls, right? That’s the prevailing wisdom among parents: Boys are simple. They play sports or they play video games, they don’t stay mad at their friends for long, and they don’t talk much about their social lives. There’s none of the “drama” we associate with girls and their friendships. Because boys are so “easy,” parents tend to shrug their shoulders and “let boys be boys.”

And then, something like the Steubenville High School rape case happens, and we collectively wonder how our boys got to this point. Or, on an individual level, the phone rings with what author Rosalind Wiseman calls a “bad news bomb” about something your son did, and you suddenly realize that “what you thought was easiness turns out to be your own own cluelessness.”

Yes, parents are clueless about what’s going on in “Boy World,” if Wiseman’s new book is accurate. And, that cluelessness is harming our relationships with our sons and their chances of growing up into decent human beings.

Schoolyard Power Structures

Do you really want or need to know what’s really going on in the locker room or on the playground? Well, you probably don’t want to, but you do need to. Because no matter how great of a parent you are, how good your intentions are, how solid your family values or your faith, you cannot prepare your son to make good choices without an understanding of the social environment he deals with every day. Because “when a moment of conflict [such as Steubenville] arises,” Wiseman says, “boys’ power structures rise to the forefront. They will not confront each other. They are paralyzed.”

Lucky for us, Wiseman, the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (the basis of the movie Mean Girls,) which gave us a glimpse into “Girl World,” now gives us a hall pass into the real world of boys. Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope With Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World is her new book, written with the input of more than 160 middle-school and high-school boys. (more…)

He’s going to want a few videogames to go with it.* You’ll provide some educational and/or fun games revolving around sports, Mario or music . But eventually, your kid will tire of those games and want some new ones. He will ask to go to GameStop to trade in the old games. You’ll go to GameStop and browse the shelves, steering your kid away from the machine-guns-and-death section.

While you’re there, the helpful young person behind the counter will offer you the GameStop rewards card, which entitles you to discounts! You’ll gladly join the rewards program to save a few bucks.

A month or so later, the Game Informer magazine will show up at your house. It will look like this:

You’ll  flip through the pages, more than half of  which contain images of weapons, gore, death or violence. (Really, I counted. In the latest issue, approximately 59% of the pages have such images. Which means every time you turn the page, you can enjoy some pretty scary stuff that apparently passes for mainstream entertainment.) Then, you’ll pitch it into the recycling bin. Or, you’ll call GameStop and ask them to stop sending the print magazine, which they will cheerfully do, although the digital edition will still show up in your email.

Then, your child will come home from school and tell you that “everyone” but him  is getting the latest Call of Duty game. Some of your child’s friends’ parents will actually stand in line at Wal-mart to buy the M-rated  game for their 9-year-old the day it comes out.

You, on the other hand, will explain that you don’t think violence should be used as entertainment. You’ll ask the opinion of your young, hip, twenty-something relatives who served in the real-life war in Iraq. They will agree with you. You’ll research the effects of videogame violence on young brains and teenage behavior. You’ll read other parents’ reviews of the game. You’ll invoke the Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”  And then, you will make a very unpopular decision.

Your child’s social life will take a hit as his friends spend more and more hours playing the game. After seeing and hearing the game in their own homes, other parents will complain about the violence, but they will not take the game away.

After a while, the novelty will wear off, the kids will come out of their basements and play baseball again, and life will go on.  You’ll wonder if it really mattered after all, that you took a stand. You’ll wonder if you’re wrong about videogame violence, or if the culture at large is wrong. You’ll wonder if your child will respect your decision, or resent it, when he’s older.

You’ll find out soon enough. Call of Duty Black Ops II comes out November 13. And when you give a child a videogame system, eventually, he’s going to want a first-person-shooter game to go with it.

*apologies to Laura Numeroff