A headteacher and Pocklington Post columnist has appeared on national television to voice his concerns about the potentially damaging effects of violent video games on children.
Steve Woodhouse, who is executive headteacher of The Wolds Federation of Schools, which includes Bishop Wilton Primary, was invited to join presenters on the Good Morning Britain sofa, after a researcher for the ITV show spotted Mr Woodhouse’s article in the 12 March edition of the Post.
He said: “I couldn’t miss the opportunity to share my views on national TV.”
In his Post column, he said he agreed with a new report which claims that children who repeatedly play brutal video games are learning thought patterns that will stick with them and influence their behaviour as they grow older. He also mentioned that he hosted an information evening at one of his schools to inform parents of the dangers associated with our rapidly changing electronic world. The guest speaker, an expert in this field, described some of the issues around video gaming.
When he appeared on Good Morning Britain, Mr Woodhouse was interviewed by presenters Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway about the worrying way in which children are copying violent scenes from video games and the fact that children as young as five are seeing the explicit sexual and violent content. They talked about the fact that the 18 rating is not working and children are still accessing these adult games. In addition, they discussed the difficulty in sharing the message with parents and how only 12 parents attended his e-safety evening. There was also a TV psychologist, Emma Kenny, who described the potential harmful effects.
Mr Woodhouse explained: “It was an exciting opportunity and nerve-racking. It was certainly an experience to be on a bustling ITV set.”
Speaking about being asked to appear on the programme, he added: “I was completely surprised, it was literally out of the blue. I didn’t realise companies like that read local newspapers. I was very privileged to be asked.”
The main focus of the debate about video games on Good Morning Britain was a report from a police commissioner, who has called for video games that depict explicit content such as torture and murder to have an “adult only” rating certificate in order to protect children.
Adam Simmonds, police and crime commissioner for Northamptonshire, who appeared on the show the same morning as Mr Woodhouse, used the report to call for the video games industry to do more to protect children from exposure to potentially damaging content.
According to the research, one in four primary school age children have seen something online that upsets them, with the most common cause being in a video game.
Mr Simmonds has suggested a new rating - AO or adult only - should be introduced on certain games in order to help parents identify which content is suitable for children.
Mr Woodhouse does not believe introducing a new rating is the way forward. He said: “To me calling it adult only is no different to 18. If you’re 18 you’re an adult anyway.
“I don’t think that would do anything on its own. It is more about getting parents to appreciate the dangers of violent video games. Kids are playing on them not because parents don’t care, they don’t understand the content of these games and the impact they have on children over time.”
Mr Woodhouse says his schools regularly hold sessions with pupils about these issues and he is planning to hold another information evening for parents on these matters.