Duncan Smith: Games are destroying innocence of children

Nobody cares about age ratings, says ex Tory leader

Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith has blamed videogames for destroying the innocence of children.

Speaking to The Times, Duncan Smith said that games were a contributing factor in what he calls Britain's broken society.

Children's innocence, he said, is being destroyed by television and computer games. "We are driving children to lose their childhood, and some videogames are incredibly violent, like Grand Theft Auto. They are meant to be 18 but nobody cares what it says on the label."

Duncan Smith cites many other problems too - including the "alcohol-obsessed" nature of our country. Alcohol is every bit as dangerous as drugs, he said - "You can argue that it's more dangerous than heroin because it's easier to get."

He also blames poor parenting skills, broken families and few benefits for married couples.

"I see a lot of dysfunctional families where you are really seeing a society in collapse. We are now into three or four generations of lone parenting, multi-fathering.

"In some areas, the way in which society should work has been inverted - instead of wisdom being passed from mother to daughter or father to son, dysfunction is being handed from one generation to the next."

MPs have been widely discussed the issues brought about by games over the past few months. Recently Labour MP Keith Vaz admitted he didn't know what games his 14 year old son was looking at. The packaging of 18-rated games needs to be changed to spell out the dangers off gaming, he said. "It should be splashed across the front: 'This has the potential to damage your health' - and that is not happening."

Meanwhile, Tom Watson - another Labour MP - has set up his own pressure group called Gamers' Voice, which he hopes can more positively represent gamers and encourage discussion on issues such as age ratings.

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Latest comments (24)

Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire8 years ago
Has this bloke noticed something called "The Internet" which in my mind (and that of a parent) has a much greater ability to shatter any innocence than a video game, even something like GTA and it's mature content.

There's been a culture shift and these dinosaurs would presumably have been happier in Victorian times where of course there were no problems of drink, drugs and violence.

Whilst he cites a few valid issues (bad parenting, dysfunctional families) it's yet another headline grabbing misinformant.
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It's like the Byron Review never even happened.
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Andrew Morriss Animator, Team 178 years ago
He should have heard my son reading his poem about color and love at Burn's night this weekend. Joe also likes the exploding pumpkin heads in Wolfenstein, and the knife specialist in MW2. I notice that Mr.Duncan Smith's four children are all above the age of 17, so I assume he's just talking about other people's children.

I'm also a little confused about his dislike of "multi-fathering". Perhaps, while he's discussing advanced kill tactics with my son, he might like to discuss parenting with my step-daughter. She probably knows more about it than him.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andrew Morriss on 25th January 2010 9:55am

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Show all comments (24)
There is alot of finger pointing to issues that Mister Smith seems to think that magical legislation will remove from our country.

Single parenting is not a sign of deteriorating society. In my eyes officials being so removed from the public that they think using blanket claims concerning issues that they seem to be very ignorant of are the same as making valid statements certainly is.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jonathan Frammingham on 25th January 2010 10:16am

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Alex Wright-Manning Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Datascope8 years ago
Christ, don't get me started...... :)

Andrew, a post of pure gold. Made my day.
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Ronald Roubos Co-Owner Gamers-PlayGround, Managing Director, Gamers-PlayGround8 years ago
Thank god i'm from the Netherlands, where only one politician is arguing about videogames. Arguing about alcohol, drugs and single parenthing is the same all over the world, and maby the politicians just need to accept that the world changes day by day.
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Woa there tigers I think we are getting sucked down a path by our own media. Would you let your 8 year old play GTA? Making cool adult games like GTA is good, letting young kids play them is not so good.

There are only two ways to solve the problem of kids playing adult games (or watching adult movies/internet) remove the supply or sort out the parents. I think IDS would probably prefer the first one but to stop that happening we need to think about the second.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Ewan Lamont on 25th January 2010 11:22am

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Soeren Lund Producer, Io Interactive8 years ago
I agree with Ewan that something has to be done to stop the supply of adult games to underage kids. With the majority games becoming less and less abstract the graphic images are as harmful (or even more given the interactive nature of games) as graphic movies. I certainly would not let my underage kid play GTA or Modern Warfare for instance. But then again, I consider myself an educated parent.

So what can we do to educate the public? Splashing "smoking kills" like banners on the cover of games is not the right solution (In my opinion). I doubt if similar initiatives on cigarettes have been succesful in any way. What can we do to alter the perception that "games are for kids"? How did movies obtain the content awareness it has in the general public?
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Kyle Hatch Software Engineer, Pennant International Services LTD8 years ago
i work at a supermarket (part time while a student obviously) and the amount of times i've turned a kid away for something like GTA or Call of Duty and 5 minutes later their back with mum or dad who's buying it for them.

I once even explained to them why i hadn't sold it to their kids, they simply shrugged and said, "Well it'll keep him quiet."

Parenting in this country is despicable. A proper rating system would help, non necessarily with GTA or COD which get 18's but games that get pegi 16+, no parent knows or cares what pegi is.

Oh and IDS don't start on single parents, i was raised by a hard working single parent your government treated like shit, and i've turned out great.

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Russell Kentish Studying Master of Digital Media, Centre for Digital Media8 years ago
This headline is very misleading, it infers a direct dig at video games, he said that 18 rated games are being played by minors and shouldn't be, which is right and I agree. Do I agree that "Games are destroying innocence of children?" No. He's blaming bad parenting and alcohols part of the downfall of society if anything. This is a load of conjecture anyway.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Russell Kentish on 25th January 2010 12:11pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
Scapegoating...when you don't want to admit the real problem because you prefer votes over honesty and integrity, scapegoat something.
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Andrew Morriss Animator, Team 178 years ago
I have no fear at all about my children playing "violent" games. I'm confident that my children have a firm and nuanced grip on the differences between fantasy and reality. They are inherently perceptive, funny and compassionate people. This must be other people's children that are being talked about.

When I was a child we didn't have digital media, so we had to put far more creative effort into our violent gaming. My mates and I particularly favored reenacting the methodical genocide of the native North American people. Of course, I only ever wanted to be on the side of the Good Guys (winners). I was blessed with a generous selection of replica weaponry, but I could easily make do with a stick and a vocal sound effect. My sister sometimes provided the supporting cast.

My point is that fantasy violence was not invented by Sony or Microsoft. Its not a new thing. They had absolutely loads of real violence in the past. We have less violent crime than our parents did. We have less than last year. Our children are less violent than we were. Fact.

I notice that Duncan Smith is an unapologetic Roman Catholic. I suspect that Catholicism has been responsible for rather a lot of violence and unwanted pregnancy. It has certainly stolen it's share of "childhood innocence". IDS has nothing much to say about that in his interview. I also notice that he refers to himself as a member of "the governing classes". /facepalm!
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up8 years ago
Haha. I think we can safely dismiss his commments about games as some more uninformed blabber.

Absolutely out of touch with the real world these tories. His comments about families and alcohol are fair game, but if this is the first of him noticing the real fundamental reasons for a broken society, then its a good job this guy never got into office when he was leader.

Question youve got to ask yourself come the election....would I vote for a party with such views and no answers? errr NO!
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Gregory Keenan8 years ago
I do agree with his statement that children can get hold of Video games; either through getting the game themselves (when I worked at ASDA only BBFC rated games would ask the checkout operator to check the persons age) or via an ignorent parent.

While it should ALWAYS be up to the parent wheather a their child plays the game or not, I do think not enough parents are aware of game violence. I once witnessed a seven year old being bought Quake 4 - even I found that game a little on the "ober-gore" side.

I think the real issue is "de-sensitization". A child becomes used to seeing scary images on TV and it stops being scarry or ab-normal. I have 4 nephews and am very carefull which games i get for them because something like Gears of war is a very compeling and engrosing game, but is it right someone aged 5 should be able to chainsaw someone in half? In the military the shooting targets on the range have a picture of a person on it, and is part of the de-sensitization program the military embarked on after WW2. Thats is just a picture! A video game will have a much larger effect in my opinion. Would a child shoot someone after playing a game? No because they dont have the means to, if they did (and there have been cases in the USA where this has happened) they might as it has now become "normal" to them.

I completly agree with Russell Kentish but @Andrew Morriss the dig at Catholisism is petty.

Is britian a broken society? *goes to window of ship and looks at britian *....

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gregory Keenan on 25th January 2010 2:00pm

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Stefano Ronchi Indie Game Developer 8 years ago
hhhmmm...I must admit GI folk, I don't actually like how the header was put as such a sensationalist statement, when in fact after reading the article it is quite clear that the chap was talking about a multitude of problems.

Surely the last thing we need is our own press services producing sensationalist articles when it is said sensationalist articles that damage the industry in the first place? I'm sorry for sounding patronising, but especially considering it is only those registered who view these news, I care not for such stunts.

Slap on the wrist for you!!
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Andrew Morriss Animator, Team 178 years ago
@ Gregory Keenan "Would a child shoot someone after playing a game? No because they dont have the means to, if they did (and there have been cases in the USA where this has happened) they might as it has now become "normal" to them."

Then why is there an inverse correlation in the US between video game playing and gun crime? While the first has rocketed in the last 10 years, the second has fallen by 30%. The biggest selling PS3/360 games are shooting games, and yet, contrary to your statement, young people are shooting each other less. GTA first appeared in 1997 and has sold 25.4 million units in it's series. Gun crime has fallen as GTA sales have boomed. Surely, if you are right, it should be the other way around. What facts are you basing your statement on exactly?
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up8 years ago
Just to add on the age old argument of minors playing adult rated games. Part of the solution is already in place in the form of digital downloads. If you sign up for a PSN account and your a minor, you cant buy the games rated as containing adult material. Sure you can sign up for a new account and change your D.O.B, but all of this is a step in the right direction. Parents also control the funds and purchases directly.

In the end parents make up their own minds on what their children are exposed too, some are responsible, some are not, and in the vast majority of cases the children are educated enough to tell the difference between the virtual and real worlds. If not however, then the family problems run way deeper than games. Call social services, they might be able to help.

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Nik Love-Gittins Senior Character Artist, FreeStyleGames8 years ago
When I was a kid 'video nasties' were going to turn us all into serial killers.
That didn't come to fruition.
I have no reason to believe that playing games will lead to anything like that either.
Though, most of us making games now are the people that grew up during the video nasty years, so there might be some kind of link there... :)
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Gregory Keenan8 years ago
@Andrew Morriss your missing my point. Im not talking about gun crime, im talking about kids being de-sensitized:
[link url=
[link url=
[link url=

And before you point it out: yes even playing with toy guns de-sensitizes children, however because guns are hard to come by over here (UK) I would still by a toy rifle for my nephews

Edit: Not sure whats wrong with the links (auto-tagging or something) and unfortunatly only the most extreme example link works, but if you wish to find more just search for "boy shoots brother" or "child shoots sibling"

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Gregory Keenan on 25th January 2010 5:01pm

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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend8 years ago
Isn't this just the usual fear that every generation in decline expresses at the (so called) inadequacies of the generation that will inevitably fill their shoes? This kind of stuff has been happening since the stone age; a generation is born and in turn rebels against their parents/society and bring their own culture, which generally doesn't resonate with the ruling generations culture. Obviously the generation in decline wants their 'way of life' to continue without ever realising that this is in fact something that will never happen and is at best ‘fantasy’.

Books, dancing, music, movies, computer games ect ect, doesn't matter what the topic is, their message is the same (when you read between the lines) "We are scared at this new (insert fad/culture) and have no idea of what it is all about, therefore it has to be bad and we will tell everyone how bad we think it is in a bid to remove said fad/culture from society."

Inevitably the new generation will fill the shoes of all the dead and dying current generation and there is nothing they can do apart from tell us how bad our culture is and that we are all 'broken'.....

hmmmm sounds like simple fear to me. They need to get with reality and realise that we are the future, they are the past. They have had their time, now is our time, our place, our future.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 25th January 2010 5:34pm

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Private VIdeo Games 8 years ago
Same old story..

If it's not games it's videos...

I agree with the age rating part though, we make games for set audiences and people under that age should haven't access to them, whether it's through retail selling to younger kids or parents who don't care it's not acceptable.

I.e MW2 has a high percentage of under 15's playing for sure...
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Carsten Lammert German Affairs Supervisor, International Business Office, Gamania Digital Entertainment8 years ago
Bash videogames and you will find your way into the news, that is what he wants.
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Tigran Hovhannisyan Studying Marketing and Organisational Behavior, Macquarie University8 years ago
All this is just a hot air. Psychological development is a multidimensional concept, hence, children cannot become more angry or anti-social, if they solely play games. There are a lot of variables, that should be concerned: and first I think its a Family, then all, such society, reference groups. That people speak about danger of video games, but their opinion is not legitimate, because they are not psychologists or persons, who did a lot of research on that field. Blaming the games became something trendy, may be because devs and publishers now gaining a lot of profits, and "some" people just want to take small slice of that pie.
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Everything that needs to be said has already been siad, except for Tom Watson's efforts to defend against these accusations. Have to give that guy credit for standing up to all these ignorant politicians.
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