Playing eighteen rated games underage in Cheshire, UK has serious consequences it seems. Head teachers sent out a letter to the parents of children across sixteen schools stating that they could be reported for neglect if found to be allowing their children access to 18+ material.
A letter from the Nantwich Education Partnership, mainly targeting parents of 7-11 year olds at primary school, said that games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty contain unsuitable levels of violence. In a statement to GamesRadar+ Cheshire council voiced full support for the Nantwich Education Partnership.
“Cheshire East Council supports the advice given by head teachers in the Nantwich Education Partnership about the dangers to primary school age children of exposure to 18-rated video games and other inappropriate material on the internet,” it says. “Schools wrote to parents because they and the Council regard this as an important issue for children’s health and well-being.”
“Cases in which children have been exposed to violent or sexual content are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Where the circumstances indicate that neglect may be involved, schools have the option of reporting the matter to police and children’s social care.”
“The school’s, Cheshire Constabulary and the Council’s safeguarding teams would then respond proportionately towards the parents and young people involved. The purpose of the letter is to remind parents of their responsibility to ensure that primary school age children are protected from inappropriate material”.
The issue is clearly a problem, as Cheshire council state that parents have reacted positively to the advice but is this a realistic approach to the situation?
"Many Mumsnet users don't allow Grand Theft Auto in the house because of the violent sexual content,” Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts told GamesRadar+. “There's good reasons why it's classified as 18. But plenty also cite how hard it is to stand firm in the face of teen nagging and given the peer pressure. Clearly there are plenty of under-18s playing these games which can make it enforcing limits a constant battle."
The fact that Cheshire is tackling entire schools at once might be the way to remove peer pressure from the equation, but it also suggests game certification is being ignored on a wide scale.
Cheshire council sees this as an extra part of safeguarding children from risks online and at home but is this really the way to deal with the situation? Possibly a better education of the PEGI rating system and clearer guidelines would mean more parents would understand what their children are playing. The attitude of ‘it’s only a game’ just doesn’t apply anymore as the medium evolves and grows.
It’s important to note that no one is blaming the games here. No pitchforks are at work, only the aim that parents and children are better educated in the media that they consume every day and that’s definitely no bad thing.