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.