It is the amount of time spent playing rather than the game’s content that is damaging.

Parents are in danger of being reported to police by their children’s head teachers if they allow them to play video games for over 18s.

A letter sent by a group of schools in Cheshire raised concerns about the ‘levels of violence and sexual content’ young people are being exposed to by playing games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, which are renowned for their violent characters and have an 18 classification.

It warns that if teachers are made aware their pupils have been playing these video games they will contact police and social services.

The letter, sent by Nantwich Education Partnership, said allowing children to play these type of games on Xboxes and Playstations is deemed ‘neglectful’.

Parents are in danger of being reported to police by their children’s head teachers if they allow them to play video games for over 18s.

It comes amid fears children could be left more vulnerable to grooming and abuse by being exposed to early sexualised behaviour as well as extreme brutality, often seen in video games in the upper age classifications.

The letter states: ‘Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Dogs of War and other similar games, are all inappropriate for children and they should not have access to them.

‘Nor should they have Facebook accounts or interact on sites or media or messaging sites like WhatsApp that are not designed for their age.’

Nantwich Education Partnership covers 16 primary and secondary schools in Cheshire.

The letter also warns: ‘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 it is neglectful.’

Video games with an 18 classification are known for their violence.

Call of Duty allows players to take on the role of a blood thirsty soldier in a number of violent scenarios – arming themselves with an arsenal of weapons including rifles, pistols and grenades.

The game has been mired in controversy, with Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik claiming he had trained himself to kill his 77 victims through playing the game.

Grand Theft Auto is well known for its violence which includes carjacking, gambling, killing and simulated sex with prostitutes. Last year Grand Theft Auto V was removed from the shelves of Australian stores Target and Kmart amid fears that the game glamorises violence against women.

The reality is, however, that it’s unlikely a parent is going to get in trouble for allowing their children to play certain games, but the bigger problem is how hard it is to get parents to think about games at all.

The act of playing Mature-rated games or their equivalent isn’t damaging by itself. The parents who know what games their children are playing and why, even if they are rated for adults, aren’t the problem. It’s the parents who don’t care what their kids play, or don’t pay attention to the content in the games.

In a sense this isn’t about gaming at all. You could argue the same thing about children who mostly eat fast food, or who don’t get enough exercise. You could make the issue about guns in the house, or even drug and alcohol use. It’s a question of parental involvement, and that’s a hard problem to solve with a sternly worded letter.

Parents who don’t pay attention to what their children are doing don’t rank their children as bad; it’s rare that you find a household where the kids eat well, are up on their homework, get plenty of rest and also play whatever game they want. Or rather, if that’s the case they have enough of a support structure that the games are unlikely to affect them in a negative way. If a child plays too many games, or the wrong games, in an environment without the proper guidance things, can begin to go wrong.

Most young people can tolerate fictional violence better than adults in some cases.

This isn’t just about games; it can concern about parental involvement, and that’s a much more problematic issue. It’s discussing societal issues that won’t be fixed with better adherence to game ratings. It’s talking about changes you can’t make with a letter shaming parents.

This isn’t a problem with games, it’s an issue of parenting. But as anyone who has talked to parents about ratings can tell you, it’s an uphill struggle. Many parents ignore your warnings about certain content, and others can become actively opposed.

These teachers would’ve likely received the identical response if they sent a letter home talking about a child’s weight and their diet. Junk food is both cheap and fast; it’s not always just a matter of making a better choice, as if that choice existed in a vacuum.

Until we fix the greater issues of parental involvement in ways that empower parents themselves, the symptoms, such as video games, will continue to be a problem.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, TechFly as an organization.

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