Should head teachers report parents to the authorities who allow their children to play adult-rated video games?
Imagine a conversation:
“Dad, can I play the new video game?”
“No, it’s an 18 certificate game and you’re not 18.”
“Awww Dad, please?”
“No, because if you do and school finds out, they may report me to the police or social services!”
Does this sound crazy? Do schools have a right to ‘interfere’ directly in parent’s decisions that affect their children; after all, they have a duty to protect their students against unsuitable material? Or, is this a step too far? Surely, it is not the place of schools to police the day-to-day activities of the upbringing of children by parents - they are the ones that know their offspring and how mature they are with regard to the content they consume?
This is exactly the nature of a warning that has been issued by the ‘Nantwich Education Partnership’ (a group of 15 primary schools and one secondary school) in Cheshire this week, when the head teachers of the schools found that some children were being allowed to watch and play age-inappropriate games that contained high levels of violence and sexual content.
In a letter to parents, the head teachers have stated that playing these games and also allowing under-age access to social media sites such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘WhatsApp’ could lead to “early sexualised behaviour” and could render children “vulnerable” to grooming for sexual exploitation or extreme violence.
They continued the letter: “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.”
It is true that schools and teachers have a duty with regard to the safeguarding of their students, but is this policy taking that duty too far? Surely, this is a trivial matter that should be left to parents? But consider for a moment how often have you overheard young students in school enthusing over the latest releases of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ or ‘Gears of War’, both of which are certified 18 years and older, and done nothing about it? And yet, if we overheard students talking about frequently watching pornography at home, with their parent’s permission, we might take it more seriously.
A problem occurs here when technophobic parents, who don’t understand the content of games and rightly base their decision not to allow their child access to a particular game on its age-rating; however, peer-pressure then occurs on their child from their classmates, whose parent’s may not be so fastidious when it comes to monitoring the games that their children are playing. This then manifests itself as constant nagging by the child who, over time, wears the parent down until they inevitably, but reluctantly agree to let them play. Is it right that these parents should have a knock on the door from the police or social services?
Schools do find themselves in a difficult predicament. On the one hand, they must be seen by the inspection authorities to have good quality safeguarding policies in place in order to protect their students from unsuitable material; however, on the other hand most head teachers are very reluctant to alienate parents by threatening serious intervention into the family unit with regard to what a lot parents would argue is a fairly trivial matter and nothing to do with schools.
Do you agree with what the head teachers in Cheshire are proposing to do? Do you think that schools should intervene to protect children from inappropriate material? Do you think that this is going too far and schools have no right to interfere in parental decisions? We would love to hear your comments regarding this difficult subject.