If your child is playing 18-rated games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, you could be reported to the police and social services. That’s the message being sent to parents by a group of primary and secondary schools in Cheshire. In a letter, the Nantwich Education Partnership has warned parents about the levels of violence and sexual content that are prevalent in mature games. It says regular exposure could lead to “early sexualised behaviour” and leave children “vulnerable to sexual exploitation or extreme violence.” Some parents have already voiced their disapproval, but headteachers say they’re merely following the guidance set by their local authority: “If your child is allowed to have inappropriate access to any game or associated product that is designated 18+, we are advised to contact the police and children’s social care as this is deemed neglectful.”
Is the policy a step too far? Video game ratings exist to help consumers (especially parents and relatives) decide whether certain media is suitable for them or the person they’re buying it for. Children mature at different rates, and so it should arguably be the parent or guardian — the person that knows them best — that ultimately decides whether they’re ready for adult content. Nevertheless, the headteachers that sent this letter clearly believe that they have a responsibility to report parents whose children have “inappropriate access,” or are being negatively affected by mature games. Mary Hennessy Jones, the head who drafted the letter, told The Times it was useful for parents to have “very clear guidelines” about the issue. But in this instance, is such a stance the right approach?