Teachers dob in parents for kids’ mature gaming?

Posted on April 20, 2015

A few weeks ago a group of schools in the UK advised parents that if they continued to allow their children to play games designed for adults, they would report them to police and social services for neglect.

According to the Guardian, the Nantwich Education Partnership want to take action against parents who allow their children to play games such as Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Grand Theft Auto V (hint: not for kids!). The idea is to report such parents for neglect, as they are required to do under law as responsible adults in public positions. Mary Hennessy Jones, who drafted the joint letter to the Sunday times, argues:

We are trying to help parents to keep their children as safe as possible in this digital era. It is so easy for children to end up in the wrong place and parents find it helpful to have very clear guidelines.

Predictably, this has met with strong resistance from parents’ and advocacy groups, who object to the ‘nanny state’ approach. Some see it as a direct infringement of parents’ rights to raise their children themselves, while others believe that it will sharply erode trust between school, parent and teacher. If the threat is carried out, it is probably not likely to be constructive in the long run, since coercion rarely leads to positive cultural and behavioural change.

On the other hand, these teachers (especially if they work in underfunded, low-SES areas) are likely to be bearing the brunt of behavioural problems at school. Undoubtedly they are the result of much deeper social problems, but it must be tempting to see a simple cause-and-effect relationship. After all there have been genuine cases of child abuse involving video game behaviour on the part of parents.

Yeah... no.

Yeah… no.

There are lots of issues at stake here, but there are no easy libertarian solutions. Where does the balance of responsibility for the wellbeing of children lie between parents and the state (represented by schools)? How comfortable are we with constraining the liberty of parents to raise their children alone? If we agree that this solution is inappropriate, how should we address the problem?

What are your thoughts? Comment below!


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