Children as young as four re-enacting violent computer games


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The Independent Online

Children as young as four are accessing violent computer games and re-enacting them in the playground and the classroom, a teachers’ leader warned today.

“I have seen little ones acting out quite graphic scenes in the playground and there is a lot more hitting, hurting, thumping etcetera in the classroom,” said Alison Sherratt, vice-president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Tomorrow she will urge her union’s annual conference in Manchester to demand more training for teachers to cope with aggressive behaviour born out of watching video games.

“The inspiration for this motion was when I watched my class out on the playground throwing themselves out of the window of their play car in slow motion and acting out blood spurting from their bodies,” she added, singling out two in particular for their violent content – Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

Her comments were echoed by Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who said teachers had to cope with children coming to school exhausted after having spent the night playing computer games.

“Teachers face the burden of dealing with societal problems every day,” he added.

These included coping with the problems of children being raised in more fragmented families than 20 years ago and parents not setting proper boundaries for their children.

On quizzing the 27 four and five-year-olds in her reception class, Mrs Sherratt found most had TVs and laptops in their bedrooms and access to games consoles. “Many said they watched older brothers, sisters and cousins playing games,” she said.

She said that research showed the games encouraged aggressive behaviour amongst teenagers, too. “Children said their parents rarely come and check what they are watching, so my four and five-year-olds are sharing with older siblings inappropriate aged material,” she added.

“Most games involve first person role plays and/or competition against unseen players who could be from anywhere in the world encouraging players to identify with their characters or avatars and include taking part in horrific violent acts.

“So if teens find it difficult to separate fiction from fact of their virtual personalities how are my four and five year olds supposed to read and cope?  Yeah, they believe the violence is real and recreate it in play.

“And how as a teacher do I respond when one of my five-year-olds tells me her brother has played a game and asked her to join in by stabbing a person in the back? We need guidance.  It’s not the content of teacher training courses.”

Meanwhile, teachers called for the abolition of “Parent View”, a new website set up by Ofsted –the education standards watchdog – allowing parents, teachers and pupils rate their schools.

Robin Bevan from Essex, said there were no checks on the authenticity of callers.  “You can rate any school in the country whether or not you have children there.”

The results of ratings, they argued, could be used to trigger inspections of schools.

Mr Gibb said he understood people had to register before they could log on to rate schools. However, delegates argued that only meant giving an email address which meant the identity need not be verfiable.