Principals in England say they will call police if they find out parents allow their kids to play inappropriate video games like Call of Duty. Photo by Activison/AP Photo.
Parents in England risk being reported to the police if they let their children play violent video games like Call of Duty, according to a letter sent to the homes of students at a group of British schools.
The letter, which went out to parents in February but has recently garnered worldwide attention, was sent from the principals at the Nantwich Education Partnership, a group of primary and secondary schools (the British equivalent of elementary, middle, and high school). According to the note, there is a concern among teachers about the “levels of violence and sexual content” students are exposed to in certain video games. “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,” the principals wrote, referencing the UK version of social services. “Access to these games OR to some social media sites…increases early sexualized behaviors (sometimes harmful) in children AND leaves them vulnerable to grooming for sexual exploitation or extreme violence.” The letter mentions the video games Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Dogs of War, and the social media and messaging sites Facebook and What’s App.
The letter the schools sent to parents said that violent video games can promote violent or sexual behavior. Photo by Nantwich Education Partnership.
“We are trying to help parents to keep their children as safe as possible in this digital era,” Mary Hennessy Jones, one of the principals in the Nantwich Education Partnership, told the Sunday Times. The video games in question, all of which are rated for players 18 and older, are known for their violence.
Still, some parents think the schools are overreaching. “Accepting the huge concerns about these violent games and their effect on children, I think the schools are stepping outside the realm of what is probably acceptable,” Margaret Morrissey, founder of activist group Parents Out Loud, told the Sunday Times.
Family physician and Pittsburgh-based parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa agrees. “Should elementary or middle school students be playing Call of Duty? No. Research shows it increases violent behaviors, promotes negative coping mechanisms to emotions like anger, and creates willingness to bully and be a bystander to bullying,” she says. “But I have to temper that with my concerns about the nanny state. I want parents to be the ones parenting their kids.”
Some high school students might be developmentally capable of playing Call of Duty and other games without negative repercussions, Gilboa says. “Parents should use caution before letting their kids play these games and be aware of their potential side effects, but they should be allowed to make considered decisions based on all the information.”
Gilboa says it’s more effective to have a conversation with a parent about inappropriate games than it is to call authorities. “I am glad I don’t have to turn in families when kids read books, play video games, or watch movies and television shows that they shouldn’t,” she says. “I’d rather have an opportunity to speak with parents about the topic without being required to punish them.”