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In another misguided attempt to fight the evils of video games, teachers in the UK have decided to dictate to parents what video games their children can play, and threaten police intervention if parents let their children play games rated 18+. While many consider the ratings system to be a useful guide to help parents make an informed decision, it’s another matter entirely to have it strictly enforced by the law.

Nantwich Education Partnership, a group of 14 primary and two secondary schools in Cheshire, wrote a letter to parents after teachers found out children were playing games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Gears of War. The letters contain a specific threat to call the police and child services, because allowing children to play those games is considered neglectful.

After doing an online search, there doesn’t seem to be any previous case, in the UK, of parents losing custody of their children or even being charged with a crime because they let their children play 18+ games. (If anyone has more information on this, by all means post link in the comments to a case relating to video games and child neglect.)  However the law is open to interpretation by judges, and it will require an actual court case to settle the matter of whether this is legally considered neglect.

Margaret Morrissey, of Parents Outloud, also believes that children shouldn’t be playing violent video games, but thinks the teachers  went too far by threatening police action. Elaine Halligan, London director of the Parent Practice, had a similar viewpoint. She believes that children should not be playing video games intended for adults, but thinks the teachers handled this matter poorly. The letter that was sent out shows a lack of trust in parents to take care of their children, she argues.

What’s interesting is that it’s generally accepted by the parental groups that the teachers are basically in the right, they just could have worded the letter differently. They all accept that playing violent video games is bad for children, and that parents should be persuaded to change their behavior. This is in the face of a growing body of evidence that there is no connection between violent video games and actual real world violence. Unless they can actually demonstrate that there is a negative impact on the children, the teachers should back down and let the parents raise their children in peace.

Do you think the teachers are right that letting children play violent video games is neglect? Leave your comment below.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • cptk

    How about the government focuses on all the child abuse they keep turning a blind eye to before they start punishing parents over entertainment choices for their kids?

  • Audie Bakerson

    I’m so glad the most violent country in Europe uses its resources to parent people’s children for them instead of working to reduce its insane crime rate.

  • I see the government making the case for home schooling again!

  • Yeah I keep getting mugged and robbed by the state, it is just horrible.

  • I played all kinds of graphically violent video games when I was a child, which was in the 90’s. My folks didn’t care what I played in video games that much because they knew that I could handle seeing stuff involving blood, while my younger brother couldn’t which they were completely right. But they didn’t want me seeing nudity…until I hit puberty that is, then they just didn’t care. I never was effected by playing those video games, as I saw them as nothing more than “killing time” and “having fun with friends” and etc, which I still kinda do today.

    So, no. I do not agree with the teachers at all here. letting children play violent video games is not neglect. But not knowing the limitation of what your child can handle and still letting them interact/see things they wouldn’t be able to handle is though. not every child is the same, which the teachers do not seem to understand here >.>

  • Max

    This is pretty much my experience as well. Myself and pretty much all my friends played GTA 3 when we were like 8 or 9 years old with no negative effects. And probably played played violent video games even before that, but I’d really have to think a long time to trace back the exact moment when I first played an M rated game. So far we’ll all fine, haven’t murdered any prostitutes yet.

  • I’m getting pretty tired of this, and always saying. The only one’s dictating what children should and should not play are the PARENT’S! I feel that if the Parent is educated enough on the rating systems, and knows the content and has taught their children properly than this isn’t anyone else’s business but the families.

  • Typical

    This is another article I’ll just add to my repertoire for arguing the bill of rights with Brits.

  • Pedro Henrique Ribeiro

    I wonder, when these self-righteous scumbags will stop their bullshit?

    Ratings are guidelines, not binding laws!

  • Gav

    What the teachers are doing is absolutely correct. The ratings system is not guidelines in this country, it is law ( Obviously I can’t say exactly, but these parents are just ignorant and neglectful. Most will not know what the games are like. I’m all for parents deciding what their children are exposed to. But in all likelihood they are not deciding. They’re letting their children play what ever they want. Many people complain about people not being informed when it comes to video games, the teachers are actually informing parents. Finally threatening with police may be a bit much, but again its what would happen if it was porn. (Also a primary school is an elementary school, btw)

  • Astralwyrm

    New media is scary! Jimmy your not allowed to play alien isolation so you’ll just have to make do with the alien box set, the toys etc.

  • Nathaniel Plain

    The law dictates whom you can sell to, but not whom can actually use the product. So no, the teachers are not doing anything correct because it is up to the parents or guardians, who had to have been involved in the purchase if they bought retail, to ensure that their children are playing games which are appropriate for them. The teachers should not be making a blanket argument that all children are incapable of playing 18+ games under the age of 18.

  • Gav

    With what you’re saying then, just because a child of the age of 5 can drink alcohol doesn’t mean they should regularly (

    If you read the rest of my text I make the assumtion that most parents aren’t making an informed decision. Teachers are informing parent’s what is generally correct.

    I myself have had the occasional drink when I was a kid, but I was given it under the supervision of my dad.

    Furthermore I was quite disturbed when I watched The Human Centipide 2 which was banned in the UK. It was banned for a reason, just as games and movies are rated for a reason. Its not provable but MOST children should not be exposed to that stuff.

    By the looks of things I’m talking to a brick wall, but my point is that many parents are either ignorant or ill-informed as they still think games are for kids. So for ill-informed when they are informed they may better understand why the ratings exist and therefore not buy those games for their kids.

    My opinion like with Alcohol is, let them try it under supervision. That way they don’t go too deep and fuck themselves up.

  • Scootinfroodie

    I wasn’t aware that violent video games were drugs that could poison you or ruin your liver in large quantities

    Maybe you’ve reached a bit with your comparison?

    Additionally, having a reason for doing something is not inherent justification to do it. The reason itself may not be a good one
    For example, there is no *good* reason to conflate letting your child play call of duty with actual neglect, but you may have a lazy, poorly thought out reason for doing so

    Finally, I think you’re overestimating the number of parents who actually actively let their children play games above their age range. While I was definitely allowed to play T rated games (primarily JRPGs) before I hit 14, I was not supposed to play M rated games (and I wasn’t allowed to own any until well into highschool, despite the fact that I had already watched R rated movies and was reading books meant for an older audience anyway)

    I did play M rated games anyway though, because one friend found his dad’s shareware copy of DOOM on an old floppy drive and another friend managed to get Mortal Kombat

    Your kids are going to play GTA or CoD or Mortal Kombat or whatever other game you don’t want them to if they’re genuinely interested in doing so. Short of going Big Brother on them, they’ll find a way to get access to it. The solution is to encourage responsible consumption of such things

  • Gav

    So my point still stands, as you’ve pretty much said the same thing. Don’t let them consume too much, You don’t give a kid vodka or allow them to drink it like you don’t give a kid hardcore porn or allow them to watch it. I’m all for freedom, but as you said it yourself responsibility. Of course you can’t watch them 24/7 and things will happen outside your control hence why we’ve all played or watched things outside of our parents permission.

  • Scootinfroodie

    That’s not a violent media thing, that’s an everything thing. When I say responsible consumption I don’t just mean the bare minimum of “feed yourself”, nor do I mean “don’t consume this thing at all”
    I mean make sure all the important stuff is done first, and that you understand what it is that you’re playing
    Heck if I found my hypothetical future offspring playing Doom, I might just introduce them to Quake and tell them about how the games work, how they were developed etc. or maybe even introduce them to modding. Controlled educational exposure is preferable to a failure to enforce prohibition

    As for your other comparisons, you don’t generally do the former as it’s kinda mean, and the latter would be tremendously uncomfortable for both parties. Both scenarios are also actually illegal depending on region (like where I live)