CHILDREN as young as four are re-enacting scenes from ultra-violent video games at school after being given free access to consoles in the home, according to teachers’ leaders.
Infants are being allowed to stay up until the early hours playing 18-rated games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto because of a failure by parents to impose greater controls, it is claimed.
Alison Sherratt, former president of the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers, says growing access to “horrific” games is responsible for an increase in the amount of aggressive behaviour in school playgrounds.
In a speech to the union’s annual conference on Wednesday, she will say that teachers have witnessed the youngest pupils “acting out quite graphic scenes”, including a rise in “hitting, hurting and thumping”.
Many parents are failing to adhere to age-restrictions on the most violent games, she adds, raising concerns that children are growing up desensitised to aggression and bloodshed.
It follows repeated concerns from psychologists that watching violent films and playing games such as Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Modern Warfare makes youngsters more prone to violence.
Mrs Sherratt, a teacher at Riddlesden St Mary’s CofE Primary School in Keighley, West Yorkshire, says her class of four and five-year-olds was seen in the playground “throwing themselves out of the window of the play car in slow motion and acting out blood spurting from their bodies” to mimic scenes from violent games.
She adds: “I began to reflect on what children have been playing over the last few years and realised we have noticed a marked increase in the aggression in general.
“We all expect to see rough and tumble but I have seen little ones acting out quite graphic scenes in the playground and there is a lot more hitting, hurting, thumping etc in the classroom for no particular reason.”
Mrs Sherratt says a small-scale survey in her own school suggested almost all pupils had access to TVs, computers and game consoles such as PlayStations, Xboxes and Nintendo Wiis in their bedroom.
She suggests that increased access to screen-based entertainment meant children were arriving at school too tired to concentrate.
“I would suggest that if children are taking part in this fairly solitary existence this will impact on their speaking and listening skills which, in turn, will impact on their ability to concentrate and learn in school,” she says.
“Sadly, there is a noticeable correlation between the children who admit to playing games and those who come to school really tired.”
On Wednesday, the ATL, which represents 160,000 teachers and school support staff, are expected to back a motion calling for the union to commission fresh research into the link between video games and behaviour.