A recent survey by Childcare.co.uk, revealed an incredible 86% of parents don't pay attention to age restrictions for games. All games come with a Pan European Game Information (PEGI) age rating. The age ratings are from 3, 7, 12, 16 up to 18. The results of this UK survey, would be in line with what we hear from children in classrooms all over Ireland. Many Irish parents appear to disregard age ratings also.
Games with an age rating of 18, are created and developed with a mature audience in mind. The games can contain sex, violence bad language, and quite often some scenes can be quite graphic and realistic. This type of content is aimed specifically at an adult audience. It is not meant for children.
Interestingly 23% of parents also acknowledged they do not restrict their children from viewing movies based on the age rating either. It was a little disturbing to see that 18% of the parents surveyed, stated they would permit their 10 to 14-year-old child watch an 18 rated movie. If those figures were to be extrapolated, that's a lot of children being exposed to content entirely inappropriate for them.
48% of the 2171 respondents reported a negative change in their childs behaviour after playing adult orientated games. This should come as no surprise for any parent who permits their child to access content which is unsuitable for them. Children learn from what they see and experience. This can be positive or negative, depending on what the child is exposed to.
Children are impressionable and vulnerable. They can quite easily be traumatized by the sexual, violent or the horrific content of a game or movie, which is intended for adults. We have met countless children, who told us they had difficulty sleeping at night, as a result of something they were exposed to, in a movie or while playing and 18 rated game. It is irresponsible for any parent to permit children to access adult orientated content, they are emotionally or psychologically ill prepared for.
In a school we visited recently, we met a teacher who explained how she had seen a sharp increase in the use of bad language among her students year on year. This was nothing new, as we have been hearing this from teachers for sometime. The question that always follows is, where are the children picking it up from? This survey has provided an answer, with 22% saying, their children now understood, or used bad language since playing adult orientated games.
As children ourselves, we all mimicked what we seen in Movies and TV shows. Our children do the very same. However, Glenroe, and the more sexually explicit Dallas or Dynasty, would not have exposed us in any way, to the level of content children are currently exposed to now. While every generation pushes the boundaries of what was acceptable, this is one of the first generations, where young children are being exposed to the elements of the more inappropriate influences of media at a younger and younger age.
The innocence of childhood is very precious and special. Seeking to preserve it, is not restricting the development or advancement of a child. Children are entitled to be protected from content which is not suitable for them. Children need to develop a resilience for the content they will be exposed to. However that does not mean, we just drop them in the deep end of the pool and hope for the best.
Parents need to take responsibility, for the access their children have in the online world, for the games they play and the media they access. Once a child has seen something, it cannot be unseen. If the movie, TV show or Game has rated 18, then it is simply unsuitable for a child.