Children as young as six are regularly being exposed to violence and prostitution in video games because more than half of parents ignore age ratings, a new survey revealed today.
Primary school children are playing titles like Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and Call of Duty for up to six hours a day despite many having an 18 certificate.
One expert has said that a six-year-old boy asked her what a brothel was and where he could find one because you can solicit prostitutes in GTA.
Survey: Primary school children are playing titles like Grand Theft Auto (pictured) for up to six hours a day despite many having an 18 certificate, exposing them to violence
Account: One expert said a six-year-old who played GTA, where you can pick up prostitutes, asked what a brothel was and where to find one
The survey of parents found 52 per cent with children aged six to 17 say that their child has played play video games when they are below the age limit.
The survey conducted by YouGov for 5 News also revealed one in four parents notice a negative change in behaviour after their children played the games.
One in three felt their offspring spent too much time playing games and it was getting in the way of physical activity.
But 57 per cent said they believe their children can handle the content in the restricted games, even if though they are underage.
Child Protection Expert, Sharon Girling, who gives presentations to schools on child safety said: ‘In Grand Theft Auto you have pornography scenes whereby a person can go into a brothel. One six year old asked me what it was.
‘I listen to the language that some of these young people are starting to use and they are not getting it from the television – they are actually getting it from the games. The teachers notice a change in behaviour.’
Picture of Britain: Many parents admitted that they saw a change in behaviour by their children and counsellors believe an addiction to games can be a s strong as drugs
Mrs Girling believes part of the problem is that parents do not understand the games or know how graphic the content is even though it is labelled an 18.
Broadway Lodge in Weston Super Mare was the first addiction clinic in the UK to adopt a programme for gaming addiction.
Counsellor Peter Smith says it is as powerful as drug addiction and he comes across children so obsessed with games they are unable to sleep, and in one case a bucket under a desk to go to the toilet in.
He said: ‘There are some examples of young people who end up in hospital with conditions caused by sitting endlessly in one position playing away.
‘We’re building up some problems for the future with possibly some physical problems, repetitive strain injury, eye sight, dietary problems and health issues.
Michael Rich, a paediatrician at Harvard medical School – Boston Children’s hospital, has researched the issue.
He says he sees three main impacts from kids who have been exposed to video game violence, becoming desensitised, increased fear and anxiety and in small numbers aggressive thoughts.
He said: ‘We’re seeing kids developing anxiety disorders even post traumatic stress disorder when they haven’t witness actual violence but have been involved in these video games.”We’re seeing not only short term effects of increased aggression because these kids are immersed in an environment where they are rewarded for aggression, where all conflicts are resolved by aggression.’