“I heard my son saying inappropriate things while playing a video game. He says it’s just part of gaming culture—I’m not so sure.”

Hi, is your teenager yelling really offensive language into his headset while playing video
games? That is today's topic on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage
and family therapist. I'm the founder and clinical director of the group private practice
Teen Therapy Center here in Woodland Hills, California. I'm also the executive director of
the nonprofit organization Child and Teen Counseling. Both organizations offer therapy
to help kids, teens, and families live happier lives. Every Wednesday at noon, I come to you
live on Facebook to answer your parenting questions. And here is today's question. Yesterday,
I overheard my son yelling some really inappropriate things into his headset as he was playing
a video game, swearing once or twice is fine in our house, but he was going beyond that. We didn't
raise him to talk like that, and it made me really angry and sad to hear him say such hurtful things
out loud. When I talked to him about it, he brushed me off and

said everyone says that stuff while playing and that it's not a big deal. Am I overreacting?
Are you overreacting? I don't know. It may depend on how much emotion you're engaging him with
this. First, I want to talk about the culture of online gaming. Online gaming is a ruthless environment
where the more respect you get is by the louder, more offensive, funnier thing you say. There
are no bounds. There's no limits. People can get really, really in the trash talk. It can be really
offensive. Some people get offended, but the whole thing is, can you make the other people laugh?
Or can you make them so angry that they, you know, rage online? That is the... That is celebrated
in online gaming. I'm not condoning it. I'm just telling you how it is. So, when you have teenagers
who are playing video games online, they are really engaged in not only the playing the game,
but how to trash talk and how to one -up the next guy. And it's kind of like, you know, locker room
talk. The only thing is,

no one can punch you in the nose. So, you can say anything. If you are in the locker room and with
like a sports team and you start trash talking, which happens in locker rooms, there's a limit
because if you go too far, someone's gonna punch you in the nose. But, when you're on a headset
in a video game, no one can punch you in the nose. you can say anything. So people will go beyond
what is socially normal. And I understand why you're concerned. It's understandable because
you don't know is your son really understanding the difference between what is acceptable
and what is not acceptable. There is room in our society for inappropriate humor. We've all
experienced it. We've all watched it. We're all engaged with it. I mean, where does your kid
learn this stuff? At school, among peers, when there's quarantine, obviously, but also online.
Most teenagers have a lot of access to online, whether it's the internet, you know, online TV,
video games, whatever. There's no limit to how your kid

has access to different insults and phrases. And again, your kid may not understand the weight
of what he's saying. A lot of kids will use really inappropriate, offensive language that is
derogatory, historically derogatory to, you know, peoples that have been oppressed in our
society. And then you may even be, your family may even be a member of one of those minority groups
and go, my kid should know better. My kid is African -American, or my kid is Jewish, or my kid is
Latino, or my kid is gay, or whatever that is. But he is saying such horrible things. And again,
it may not represent what he believes. It's representing his hope of going over the top and making
his friends laugh or making his opponent get so angry that they, you know, rage and click off,
you know, and that's a part of the society. So what I would do is I would consider what is it your
goals are. Is it that you don't want him yelling so loud because it's hard to focus on what you're
doing? You don't want to expose his

little sister to this conversation, this stuff, and he's yelling and everyone can hear in the
house, including the backyard, the front yard, and the neighbor's house, you know, what are
the goals? And I would talk to him about those things. Number one, how it's affecting other people,
because he's not understanding that. Because when he's playing a game, he is just in his world,
and anything outside the world, there's nothing outside this world. It's only in the video
game. So helping him understand how his actions affect other people, aside from people he's
playing with. But also, what does it mean? And that could be an awkward, uncomfortable conversation
for him, and maybe for you. but if he's saying racially derogatory statements, for example,
you know, does he really understand what those mean and the history of those, you know, and how
they have been used to oppress people? And is that really what he wants to use? Now, he may think,
yes, because that's funny and that's not what I really

feel. A lot of kids will say these things, even though that's not how they feel, you know, because
it's just about, you know, making someone laugh or making someone get angry. But helping them
understand that. And it's not about right now. This is about long -term helping understand
this. Most teenagers will be able to understand that, hey, I can't say this stuff to my teacher,
or I can't say this when grandma's around, you know. But when I'm online, and I have my headset
on, and I'm in a little bubble, he has a hard time understanding that. So, helping him understand
that. Maybe helping him work with you to find a compromise. Maybe, you know, as long as he closes
his door, and no one else hears what he says, he can say what he wants. You can't really legislate
what he's going to say because the more you try to limit it, the more you give power to it. Again,
why do kids use foul language or adult language as it's called? Because it makes you feel powerful,
makes you feel like you're more

of an adult, right? So you know, the more we can take some taboo away from that and understanding
a deeper understanding of what those words mean, maybe it helps him have a better understanding
and maybe helps him not yell so loud, which is hard to do when you're, you know, playing Fortnite
or Call of Duty or Madden or whatever, and it's really exciting, it's hard to stay quiet. And
you may have to find some limits on when he can play these games, when he can't play these games.
I don't know. But whatever you do, get him engaged in the conversation to find a reasonable solution.
If you just come down with an edict, he's going to fight it. You know, and it's more important
to get him involved in the conversation, more involved in the decision -making, and more involved
in the awareness of what's going on, so he can make a more conscious choice of how he wants to proceed.
It's a tough question. There's not one simple, easy answer to this. But if you have more questions
about this, give me

a call, send us an email. We'd be happy to talk more about this. If you have a question you'd like
me to answer next week on Tips on Teens, email us at tipsonteens at teentherapycenter .com.
Again, my name is Kent Toussaint from Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling, and
we'll see you next week here on Facebook Live. Bye -bye.

Video games can be a source of stress relief, bonding time, and just good-natured fun! But sometimes there are aspects of gaming culture that don’t mesh well with parents’ household rules. This week’s Tips OTeens question comes from a parent unsure how to respond to their teen’s gaming:

“Yesterday I overheard my son yelling some really inappropriate things into his headset as he was playing a video game. Swearing once or twice is fine in our house, but he was going beyond that. We didn’t raise him to talk like that and it made me really angry and sad to hear him say such hurtful things out loud! When I talked to him about it he brushed me off and said everyone says that stuff while playing and that it’s not a big deal. Am I overreacting?”

Tips On Teens is a vlog that our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint, hosts every Wednesday at 12:00pm on Facebook Live.  He will be answering parenting questions submitted to us by you to our email at TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com.  Send us any questions you might have about parenting kids and teens and Kent will be answering them every week!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.