UK teachers have lashed out at the easy access to violent video games, blaming the phenomenon for a rise of violent and inappropriate behaviour in schools.
“Infants are being allowed to stay up until the early hours playing 18-rated games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto because of a failure by parents to impose greater controls,” The Telegraph writes.
The issue has once again been thrust under the eyes of national papers after former president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Alison Sherratt raised the subject at the union’s annual conference.
“I began to reflect on what children have been playing over the last few years and realised we have noticed a marked increase in the aggression in general,” she stated.
“We all expect to see rough and tumble but I have seen little ones acting out quite graphic scenes in the playground and there is a lot more hitting, hurting, thumping etcetera in the classroom for no particular reason.
“I would suggest that if children are taking part in this fairly solitary existence this will impact on their speaking and listening skills which, in turn, will impact on their ability to concentrate and learn in school.”
My normal reaction to these stories is to mock. And mock. And mock. And indeed, that instinct is made remarkably easy when outlets such as The Evening Standard describe Grand Theft Auto as seeing “players assume the identity of a gangster who in one scene beats a prostitute to death”. Note - that was written by the education correspondent!
It’s hard to see through the thick fog of ignorance.
But what would also be wrong would be to let this wayward reporting cloud what, I admit, is a very real issue.
I became a dad in 2006. At the age of five and a half, I can already quite clearly see the impact that brands (Peppa Pig!), fashions (endless lipstick!), ideas (Christianity!) are having on her. She’s stubborn as hell, but also an impressionable little thing.
And that’s exactly why we stopped reading Harry Potter after Prizoner of Azkaban (she dreamt Dementors stole mine and her mum’s souls), that’s why her mum won’t let her watch the reasonably violent (but, to me, also really very good) Ben 10 on TV and why I would never let her watch me play something like Call of Duty or even Mass Effect 3.
But what if she were to access such material? Would it be the fault of Call of Duty if she started acting out war role-play? Would I blame GTA if she started encouraging me to mow down pedestrians when out in the car?
Of course not. It would be my fault for allowing her to be exposed to such things.
Am I foolish enough to presume that my mighty parental influence and all-knowing omnipotence can safeguard her from all negative influences forever? No.
Is that reason to criticise media that is produced for older audiences? No!
If you follow that line of reasoning then the logical conclusion is that the production of all adult and violent material should be banned, because from time to time it will fall in tiny hands. And that’s absurd. Trust me, after two hours of Peppa Pig I need some guns, tits, social inequality and crack use on my screen.
The issue that these reports always skip over is one of parental responsibility. And despite the sterling efforts of the industry to date, the message isn’t getting through.
I know SO MANY kids who are routinely allowed access to very violent games. Parents, seemingly, just don’t seem to get it. Take my neighbours – lovely, lovely people. Sometimes they give us food and it’s always amazing. What was their 11 year old playing last time I spoke to him? Killzone 3. And he asked to borrow Battlefield 3.
I don’t think his parents are bad people, or even bad parents. They’re good people who are from another generation and just don’t understand.
The conclusion is two-fold. Firstly, we – the games industry – do have a responsibility to improve the public understanding of games. I know that the industry has done a lot already but let’s be honest – it hasn’t worked thus far.
Secondly, and most importantly, the media needs to stop scapegoating games and gore porn and all those sorts of things. This is an issue of parenting.
I’m stepping up to the plate, holding my hands up and saying this to you all – I fully accept responsibility for my darling girl. Are you willing to do the same?