Primary school to treat pupils playing ‘adult’ games like Grand Theft Auto as ‘child protection issue’

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  • Shocking tales of young children playing sexually explicit games
  • Survey shows 15% of children used their device when parents think they are asleep
  • School says pupils playing ‘adult’ games is a child protection issue

A Portadown primary school has said it will treat any reports of its pupils playing ‘adult’ video games such as Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto as a child protection issue.

Highlighting concerns over gaming and social media usage, Hart Memorial Primary School, said a survey it had carried out found 95% of P6 and P7 pupils had a gaming device in their bedroom and almost half played it every day.

And just this week the school was one of many warning pupils and parents of the current craze ‘The Momo Challenge’ - a dark game played via social media encouraging players to perform acts of violence or self harm.

ITC Coordinator at the school, Louise McNally, in conjunction with Armagh firm, REIM Training, carried out a survey among P6 and P7 pupils at Hart Memorial.

She said that some of the statistics were shocking in that children admitted to playing addictive games such as Fortnite and sexually explicit games such as Grand Theft Auto.

Ms McNally said: “Although it was only P6 and P7 children that were able to take part in the survey, we know that children much younger are using their devices in a similar way.

“At Hart Memorial we view exposure to such material as a very serious matter and will pursue it as a Child Protection issue should we hear of any of our children playing these games.”

Hart Memorial Primary School

“Grand Theft Auto is an over 18 game and the content is horrific. There is sexually explicit content and people are being decapitated.

“Parents would not allow their children to watch sexually explicit movies. It is very scary.

“There is lots of proof of the damaging effect this can have on children.

“It is really worrying. And the children are tuned in enough to know the negative effect this is having on their mental health.

“We can definitely say that concentration levels are dropping after they play on devices late at night. It shows the next day.”

She said children admitted to doing their homework in five minutes so they could rush to get onto the X Box. “It is almost like an addiction.”

Ms McNally said it was not something the school could ‘sweep under the carpet’ and the school felt it necessary to be pro-active and help the children take more responsibility in managing their time and what they use technology for.

A total of 99 pupils from P6 and P7 took part in a survey on screen time habits.

Of that 95% have a device in their bedroom and 44.4% play on the device every day.

It showed 28% play for three hours or more Monday to Thursday and 22% play up to 10pm or later.

Shockingly 15% use their devices when their parents think they are asleep.

The survey also showed that 54% play on their devices for more than three hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

And 70% agree that they have a negative impact on one or more of the following: mental health, sleep, behaviour, family relationships, schoolwork and friendships.

Many of the children also play games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty which are rated Over 18.

Fortnite, which is rated for aged over 12, is highly addictive and has been linked to a rise in addictive behaviour in children.

“It is a shooting game: the entire point of the game is to kill other players. Players can link up with up to 99 other players in each game with no parental restrictions in place. It is very likely some of these will be strangers.

“Text chat cannot be turned off and there are no filters for voice or text.

“Call of Duty is a violent and bloody shooting game that uses a variety of guns, grenades, sharp objects and even motor vehicles to kill human enemies.

“There are graphic depictions of dismemberment and it includes very coarse language.

“Studies show games like this affect our brain’s ability to process emotions.

“Grand Theft Auto is a game brimming with gang violence, nudity and sexual violence.

“It also has very coarse language as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

“This game was actually removed from stores in Australia as it was feared it glamorised violence against women.

“Would you expose your child to this in the real world?

“Exposing young children to such content can be extremely damaging to their mental health and it has a knock-on effect on how they behave in real life.

“At Hart Memorial we view exposure to such material as a very serious matter and will pursue it as a Child Protection issue should we hear of any of our children playing these games.”