UK teachers call for "stringent legislation" on violent video games

Association of Teachers and Lecturers believe gaming influences playground behaviour of primary-age children

Attendees of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' (ATL) annual conference voiced strong concerns about the influence of violent video games on primary school children, the Guardian reports.

A number of teachers related stories of children as young as five years-old enacting car crashes and similarly violent scenes in the playground, allegedly inspired by the games they play at home.

Alison Sherratt, a teacher at Riddlesden St Mary's Church of England primary school in West Yorkshire, claimed that such behaviour occurs on a regular basis, and those violent tendencies have crept into the way pupils interact with each other.

"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 and thumping in the classroom for no particular reason," she said.

"Obesity, social exclusion, loneliness, physical fitness, sedentary solitary lives - these are all descriptions of children who are already hooked to games ... Sadly there is a notable correlation between the children who admit to playing games and those who come to school really tired."

Primary school teachers expressed concern that young children have difficulty separating fantasy from reality, and a motion called for "stringent legislation" to cope with gaming's negative influence.

However, Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, emphasised the role of parents and carers in managing exposure to violent film, TV and video game content.

"It's about reminding parents and carers that they have a very real responsibility for their children and that schools can't do it alone," she added.

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Latest comments (11)

James Battersby Developer, Blue Beck5 years ago
Another excerpt from the same article...
Meanwhile, teachers have called for the government to abolish a website that allows parents to rate schools. Teaching unions claim the site gives anyone with a grudge against a school free rein to make an unfounded claim.
Having said that, I'm glad they recognised that part of the blame lies with the parents ignoring the ratings and allowing them to stay up too late.
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Private Industry 5 years ago
I know those games have so much calloriens.

The social exclusion and so on kind of surprises me because when I was in school all the gamers constantly hanged out together talking about games.

But yes its the duties of the parents to check what their kids play.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Future Games of London5 years ago
From the source story -
Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said many teachers were worried that parents ignored age restrictions on games. "The watershed tends to work quite well, but with online TV and video children and young people are probably watching inappropriate content over a range of media," she said. "It's about reminding parents and carers that they have a very real responsibility for their children and that schools can't do it alone."
We already have legislation to stop underage children buying violent videogames, that's what age ratings are for. Unfortunately, as the quote above says, a lot of parents are ignoring those ratings. You can't really legislate against poor parenting.
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Show all comments (11)
Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios5 years ago
to reiterate... Blame the parents, not the games...
"Obesity, social exclusion, loneliness, physical fitness, sedentary solitary lives - these are all descriptions of children who are already hooked to games ...
How about blaming the school for allowing this sort of thing to go on? Social exclusion, loneliness, sedentary solitary lives? Please! When I was growing up that situation was forced on people like me, not by the games, but by the general social stereotype (as seen above clear as day), and other students making fun of me and others like me because we were gamers.

And what did the teachers do then? Absolutely nothing. What happened after I constantly complained to my principal? Absolutely nothing. That violence they're seeing could possibly be those kids lashing out at those making fun of them...

After going through the public school system in the United States, I take absolutely no credit in what 'teachers' and 'teacher unions' have to say about things. Espically when it comes to the entertainment industry. Blame the parents, blame the kids, but not the games.

I grew up playing the Grand Theft Auto series and you don't see me cruising around in a giant bus trying to pick up as many hookers as I can at once without having to unload, and then repeatedly beating them with a baseball bat after *ahem* finishing with their services... But hey, I still have a mid-life crisis ahead of me ;)
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Stephen Richards Game Deisgner 5 years ago
The thing that concerns me is: didn't we all grow up playing Grand Theft Auto?

Developers seem to make two responses to this issue. The first is that parents have a responsibility to keep track of what games their kids play, and that they are the irresponsible ones if they let their 11 year old children play GTA.

The second, often unspoken, response is that, as Joshua voices, we ourselves played these games when we were 11 and it didn't harm us.

Has no one else realised these responses are quite incompatible? You can't blame parents for buying their kids the kind of games you're quite sure were fine for you to play when you were young.

I think a lot of developers may voice the first response when actually they have more confidence in the second. After all, you know you're going to have a strong PR/media backlash if you openly say it's fine for (most) kids to play GTA, even if you believe it. But you can't have it both ways: either lay off the parents, or admit your own parents were irresponsible.
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Georges Paz Programmer, technical director and CEO, Psychoz Interactive5 years ago
That's just a blatant excuse to push forward a tax legislation on violent games. Simply as that.
The gaming industry is growing and gouv (and other related organizations) want a big chunk of the pie.
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Scott Pitchford Manager of Research and Client Services, Nielsen5 years ago
If you read the headline of the article and the quotes from the teachers, it makes it seems as if they are blaming the violence in video games for making kids obese. Does anyone else get that impression from the piece? Why would violent video games make kids fat any more than any other type of video game (or simply watching television, for that matter)? Sitting in front of the television watching Sesame Street for 6 hours will make you just as fat as playing GTA for 6 hours.

In my opinion, there is not one single issue (i.e. violence), but rather two very different and distinct issues here; 1) excessively violent games being played by kids of an inappropriate maturity level, 2) kids playing video games in general too much, and not getting enough exercise/activity. Each needs to be addressed individually.

1) As a parent of two young boys, and having grown up playing video games my whole life (some of them being the violent type), I will admit that I believe many kids are playing games that are not age appropriate for them. But as others have posted already, that responsibility lies solely with the parents. Parents MUST take their head out of the sand and be aware of what their kids are playing. Violent games are fun for a lot of people, and certainly have their rightful place in our societies. We just need parents to pay attention, and not pass the buck of deciding what is right for their kids to game developers / publishers / retailers / governments.

2) Do a lot of kids spend too much time playing video games, and are in need of more exercise/activity? Truthfully, yes, I would say that is probably true, for some kids at least. But again, this responsibility falls squarely on the parents. The notion that video game makers and retailers are somehow responsible for kids not getting enough exercise is absurd! And the idea that somehow violence in video games makes kids more likely to be inactive (as this article seems to suggest) is asinine. Once again, parents need to step up and accept the responsibility of monitoring how much time their kids spend doing various things, and adjust it accordingly. And we haven't even begun discussing any of the other possible reasons for kids getting fatter (i.e. schools feeding kids poor quality food to save money).

I think the bigger concern in our society, far greater than the amount of violence in video games, is what has happened to our expectations of parents? Have parents' responsibilities eroded so far that they can no longer be held accountable for anything?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Scott Pitchford on 4th April 2012 6:10pm

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It can't be violence on TV. It must be games.

The anecdotal evidence of some teachers is enough to say kids are "addicted" to games. They didn't even bother to cite any behavioral studies. They also neglect to mention that correlation does not imply causation. Psychologists expressing concern that some games could make children more aggressive doesn't mean much.

"Doctors found children who continually play computer games may be more likely to develop tendinitis an inflammation between the muscles and bones and suffer from seizures, teachers said"

Really? I was under the impression that playing on a metal jungle gym or playing football decreased the chances that I would break a bone or get injured.

""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 and thumping in the classroom for no particular reason," she said."

I really like that the quote says "...for no particular reason".
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Rick Cody PBnGames-Board Member 5 years ago
I think it's very real and a sign of how harmful the projects big movie studios and AAA studios spend their time on actually are. I would venture to say not just on kids but (to a much lesser degree) everyone.
It baffles me that parental controls aren't used more. It's often because parents don't know how to activate them.... In a time when everything is digital I just don't get how they don't adapt, if only for the sake of parenting.
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Kayleigh McDougall Studying BA(Hons) Game Design and Production Management, University of Abertay Dundee5 years ago
A lot of what's been said in there is actually the parent's fault.

Games are just being used as a scapegoat to hide what's really going on, and to be honest isn't being fair on us. How to the teachers think the kids got their hands on the games that are making them violent? Just bought them off some random? No, I believe you'll see it was the parents who supplied thus the parents who should take the blame. Not the games industry.
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Tony Johns5 years ago
Not this again....

Haven't we, as a society already gone past this point of blaming things for negative influences on kids?

All these teachers should take a good long read of papers such as the Byron Review as well as the book Grand Theft Childhood. As well as at another book called Moral Panic as it details how society can easily be looking at things they don't understand to blame the negative things on things that younger people like.
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