UK School District To Report On Parents Allowing Kids To Play More Mature Video Games

from the nanny-state dept

In case you thought the nanny-state arms race was over, it isn’t and, also, who were you kidding? The initiation of laws and rules made by governments desperate to protect their own people from themselves is a pastime at this point, one which has previously seen legislative and law-enforcement actions taken against wearing headphones, smoking, and allowing children to find entertainment in the form of electronics. Now, in the UK, one school district is taking matters into its own hands, stating it will report to police parents who allow their children to play video games with an R18 rating.

This declaration was made in a letter warning parents of the new policy, authored by head teacher Mary Hennessy Jones, who heads up fifteen primary schools and one secondary school in Cheshire, England.

“Several children have reported playing or watching adults play games which are inappropriate for their age and they have described the levels of violence and sexual content they have witnessed: 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. If your child is allowed to have inappropriate access to any game or associated product that is designated 18-plus we are advised to contact the police and children’s social care as it is neglectful.”

The letter sent home to some parents also mentions “inappropriate” social media accounts including Facebook and WhatsApp because it could “make them vulnerable to sexual grooming and explicit images.”

If this isn’t sending a shiver down the spine of any parents out there, it damn well should. The idea that a school district might seek to place itself directly in between a child and a parent when it comes to parenting decisions is somewhat without precedent when it comes to the type of entertainment the child engages in. This leaves aside the question of blatantly illegal content, of course, such as child pornography and/or real-life filmed violence. This is strictly about parents who decide (or choose not to decide) what types of legal entertainment their children are allowed to enjoy. As always, this overstep traverses a bridge built with platitudes about protecting children.

Threatening parents with calls to the authorities for a child even witnessing an adult playing an adult-rated video game is bad enough. Suggesting social media access could result in the same action (the letter does not explicitly say Facebook access will lead to a call to the police, but connects “social media sites” to “these games” in the bulleted list of “actions we are advised to take”) pushes this whole thing into the realm of the completely ridiculous. While some parents may feel that it makes sense to restrict their kids’ access to social media and violent video games, and there is arguably a place for schools to alert parents when the appropriateness of the entertainment content to which children are exposed inside and even outside of school is questionable, implementing a zero-tolerance policy on the choices of parents about their child’s entertainment is the nanny state taken to an absurd level.

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Comments on “UK School District To Report On Parents Allowing Kids To Play More Mature Video Games”

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wereisjessicahyde (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s complicated. We have two in the UK, PEGI and BBFC

How the EU system PEGI (Pan European Game Information)is used varies from country to country.

The rating system is compulsory in every EU state, however it is only legally enforceable in some. In the UK for example, it is illegal to sell to or for someone to purchase for – under-age people. It is a criminal offence.

Although the laws restricts sales, I do not believe it goes as far as restricting what children can play. That is supposed to be down to parental choice.

But in much of the EU it’s a non-enforceable but compulsory advisory system.

This particular situation with this UK School District is very definitely not the norm and they have way over reached. I very much doubt the police would give a toss and even if they did, there’s nothing they could do. Social Services – maybe, in an extreme case (as part of other problems)but not the police. They would laugh at you and probably tell you stop wasting police time.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: WTF is "Sexual Grooming"?

It’s a perfectly legitimate term, referring to a sexual predator carefully preparing their (usually underage) target over time to become a “willing” sexual partner. It’s very creepy stuff, and if it weren’t for the sexual-predator dimension, it would probably be referred to as “brainwashing”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: WTF is "Sexual Grooming"?

Except therein lies a BIG problem. Gaining the trust of a child – or anyone else for that matter (which is what you are really describing but only with more loaded language just like the term as you describe it’s meaning) – is not and should not be illegal. Actually abusing children is what is illegal and rightfully should be. The problem with using hyperbolic loaded terms like that is it leads to stories like the previous one where nice people doing absolutely nothing wrong are suspected and often accused of planning horrible things because of baseless fears. That needs to stop.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: This is what a moral panic looks like.

Like when we didn’t want kids listening to Stairway to Heaven because it included satanic messages.

Or when we didn’t want kids playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons because they had the option to be Chaotic Evil and there were demons in the Monster Manual

Or when we didn’t want people watching / reading The Marriage of Figaro because they… might… get… ideas… about something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is what a moral panic looks like.

The scary thing here is that it may be possible to enforce it now. Require all video game systems come with a video device, verify the identity of the player and if you are underage, your system will not play violent games. It’s technologically possible, and politically… I wish I could say impossible, but maybe not much longer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is what a moral panic looks like.

What about games on Personal computers, or online games? The only way your proposal would work is if there are no user controlled computers available, and no access to the electronics.
If that objective was achieved, the original Dungeon and Dragons is still available, and only requires paper and dice.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is what a moral panic looks like.

I suspect that the minute Microsoft implemented its head-counting technology (so as to charge your account per viewing per head) We’d start making little dioramas to place in front of the Kinect camera that showed a lonely dog lying on the remote control.

If a console required some kind of camera-based biometrics or age verification, I suspect that the diorama technology would be similarly implemented, and that is if the biometric software couldn’t be bypassed outright.

Like clocks on VCRs in the 80s, voluntary opt-in parental controls seem to be something of a mystery to typical households.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is what a moral panic looks like.

voluntary opt-in parental controls seem to be something of a mystery to typical households.

More like parental control requires effort, and it is much easier to force everybody else to keep the world safe for kids, by prohibiting anything that would harm them.

Should be sarcasm, but unfortunately it is not.

Anonymous Coward says:

My first call...

If I was a parent who received this letter, my first call would be to the police. I’d ask what exactly they plan on doing when the school calls to report this kind of thing. My second call would be to the author of the latter to let her know exactly why I think she is the least qualified person to make decisions for my family. My third call would be to the papers to see about publishing an OP-ED in which I take them all to task for their bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: My first call...

With a note:

“Upon receiving your letter warning us of the dangers related to mature media with regards to our children, I was immediately moved by the level of your concern. Please accept this fine piece of classic literature as a token of my appreciation for the care that you provide us all.”

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Pfffffft.... (or an English version of the bronx cheer)

Attention all nanny-state ninnys, reporting is to take place via on all potential ninnys who are expected to be trying to qualify for the exalted state of state nanny. Qualifications include automatic entrance into the most spurious report contest with all finalists gaining immediate certification. All certified state nannys shall report new ninnys at their earliest convenience, or when identified, whichever is earliest.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

…we are advised to contact the police and children’s social care as it is neglectful.

I had heard rumblings about this lunacy a couple days ago, but I was too busy playing old-school violent video games like Shadow Warrior and Duke Nukem to pay it much thought at the time.

But Christ on a motorcycle, I didn’t realize it was that absurd. Contacting child care services over some kid playing an 18+ game like Call of Duty, GTA Halo? I know the UK’s been a bit of a nanny-state for years now, but this is even by their standards.

That being said, I suspect a sizable chunk of the COD community probably wouldn’t mind if there were less foul-mouthed primary-schoolers trash-talking them over Xbox Live because of this.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Mary Hennessy Jones, who heads up fifteen primary schools and one secondary school in Cheshire, England.”

So 16 total schools will be affected by this idiocy. And yeah, I expect that the police would just shrug it off, but she’s still trying to scare parents into doing what she believes in the moral thing.

Personally I hope whoever is in charge of the police sends here a nice little letter detailing the punishment for filing false police reports.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s more inappropriate to threaten others for doing something you dislike that has absolutely no impact on your wellbeing.

Seems she should get reported for intentionally trying to traumatize children with unfounded legal threats to cause trouble for a family. After all, who should know the child’s ability to tell reality from fantasy better, a stranger or a parent?

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Back in the day

Back in the day before the Internet and personal computers or video games, when I was a young teenager, I was allowed to read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Kamasutra of Vatsayana (with lots of graphic illustrations), and other classics of the genre. Did it ruin me as a man? Well, I have been married to the same woman for almost 41 years (in 5 days) and have 2 great grandchildren, so you go figure!

Anonymous Coward says:

I can see the argument for getting social services involved. If you don’t care enough about your 5 year olds development to stop them playing GTA then maybe you are neglecting other areas too.

The only thing the police could do is follow a parent and bust them when they buy a game for a minor but that seems like a huge waste of time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Question. What’s more likely to be traumatic? a 5 year old seeing their daddy play GTA late at night and having a discussion on fantasy vs reality, or a 5 year old seeing their daddy play GTA late at night and being taken away by child services for it?

Hell! I’ll do you one better! Is it any better if the child was >playing

Sheogorath (profile) says:

In the UK, PEGI ratings that are the equivalent of 15 and 18 BBFC ratings are backed up by the latter. This makes it illegal to sell a PEGI 18 rated game to a fourteen-year-old.
In the UK for example, it is illegal to sell to or for someone to purchase for under-age people.
No. The sale to those underage is prohibited, nothing else. For example, anybody selling my ten-year-old cousin a copy of Kill Bill would be committing a criminal offence, but if I purchased a copy for her eleventh birthday, I wouldn’t be arrested.

Anonymous Coward says:

Seriously, this needs some fact checking.
1. There is no such thing as a “school district” in the UK. There are Local Education Authorities (LEAs), but this wasn’t an LEA. This was a group called “Nantwich Educational Partnership”. The group’s WordPress site has been deleted (wonder why…) but earlier incarnations are on wayback.
NEP seems to have been no more than an unofficial, voluntary association including schools in one particular town.
2. The letters were sent by NEP and drafted by Ms Jones. Ms Jones does not “head up 16 schools” she is the headteacher of one school (and presumably the leader of NEP). She has no authority over any other school
3.The local council (who actually have some control over what schools in their area do) issued a rather tepid statement in support. I say tepid because they state:
“Where the circumstances indicate that neglect may be involved, schools have the option of reporting the matter to police and children’s social care.” and that all incidents must be judged on a case-by-case basis. See further
In other words, the schools *might* report to social services (not the police). That letter is just one foolish headteacher, drunk on her own authority over children, who thinks the same tactics will work on their parents. Her threats are about as real as “if you don’t all settle down this instant, it’s detention for everyone!”.

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