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.