PARENTS

Dad Took Young Sons To War Zone To Put Them Off Violent Video Games

14/08/2014 18:01 | Updated 20 May 2015

A dad whose sons wanted him to buy them the violent video game Call of Duty decided they needed to see the real impact of war – so he took them to a war zone.

Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a Swedish journalist, took the rather drastic step of flying his sons, aged 11 and 10, to Israel to show them first-hand the horror of conflict.

His boys, Frank and Leo, began badgering him for the latest Call of Duty game so he decided to strike a bargain.

He'd take them to a war-torn area where they would be able to speak to some of the individuals involved.

Then, when they returned to Sweden, he'd let them play the game to their hearts' content, with a new-found awareness of the disconnect between fantasy and reality.

At first, Carl considered taking the boys to Iraq or Afghanistan, but decided those countries would be too dangerous.

Instead, they travelled to Israel, to experience how the conflict between Israeli forces and Hamas militants was affecting the lives of ordinary families on both sides, posting their experiences on Twitter.

Carl told European news site The Local: "It wasn't until the second day when we were there, eating at an Israeli street food stand, when [Leo and Frank] asked, 'Dad, are we really here because of the games?' And I said, 'Yes. Yes, we are here because of the games. You need to see this.'

"We went to the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem. They saw the conditions there, where people burned trash in the streets, and there was an illegal drug market right next to the school.

"We went to a clinic where kids were being stitched up every single day because they had been hit in the head with the butt of a rifle."

When father and sons returned from the 10-day trip, Carl faced a barrage of online criticism.

He said: "I have received messages calling me the worst parent in the world, saying that I am traumatising my children, that I am a pompous bastard, and that I should be doused in napalm.

"I didn't really expect such a reaction.

"Video games in themselves are not bad. But in Sweden and Europe we are very privileged.

"We have all this wealth and rights and social services. And with that comes the responsibility to educate ourselves and not just become zombies playing video games.

"We have a responsibility to be aware. To be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and say 'at least I'm trying to make a difference.'"

He added that he has no regrets about his family's trip and that he does not understand how some parents are afraid of allowing their children to see the reality of war - but let them play violent war-themed video games.

He said: "Parents have a responsibility to teach their children the truth."

As for Frank and Leo, when they returned from the Middle East, they decided they didn't want to play the new Call of Duty game after all, telling their dad 'it didn't feel good'.

They also told their dad they would like to go back one day.

What do you think? Was the dad right to expose his sons to the reality of conflict to make a point?

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