THE NEWSDESK: Our children deserve protection from depictions of sexual violence
IT'S a pretty shocking state of affairs when children as young as six are having sexually explicit conversations, acting out sexual violence and talking about drug use because of coming into contact with a video game.
Especially when that game has depictions of prostitutes being picked up by players, who get extra life points for having sex with them, and who then have the option of paying for their sexual services or killing them. No extra life points for that, but players can get their money back.
But this is the reality according to Llanbradach headteacher Morian Morgan, who has written to parents warning them about the implications of their youngsters coming into contact with Grand Theft Auto.
Pupils at Coed-y-Brain Primary School have been, according to Mr Morgan, “initiating games that involve simulating rape and sexual intercourse” and “having detailed discussion of drug use”.
He told our sister paper the Caerphilly Campaign that staff at the school discovered that the worrying behaviour was a result of children coming into contact with GTA, which follows the dark underworld of America’s biggest cities.
Its latest instalment, Grand Theft Auto V, is thought to be one of the best-selling video games of all time, having sold more than 32 million copies worldwide.
It is certified for people over 18.
The letter to parents also said children were “acting out scenes from the game which include the strongest of sexual swear words”, “having conversations” about sexual acts and “play acting extremely violent games that sometimes result in actual injury”.
Mr Morgan is careful not to criticise parents - and I understand why.
How many parents are avid gamers? How many would know the full content of games like these? And how many parents know every single thing their children come into contact with?
Mr Morgan said: “Until I went online and checked the content of this game, I thought it was just a bit of swearing and some shooting and I think some of the
parents will tell you that they have been equally naive."
He stressed this applied to a minority of pupils. But even a small minority introducing subjects such as these into a primary school playground is toxic.
Innocence, once corrupted, can never be regained.
This week's story in Llanbradach comes closely after the ATL teaching union said nearly 40 per cent of its members believe the young people they teach have been pressured into viewing online pornography by their peers.
And 38 per cent of respondents said they were aware of pupils sending or receiving sexually explicit texts, images or videos on their mobile phone, a practice known as "sexting".
The union surveyed more than 400 of its members last November and December.
Its findings suggest that while some education staff feel it should be the responsibility of parents to teach children about the dangers of pornography, 71 per cent believe that it should be taught in secondary schools, and almost 20 per cent believe that it should be taught in primary schools.
Yes, that's also pretty shocking. Primary schools.
Almost 60 per cent of those who cover the topic in teaching told the survey that they had not received any specific training and of those who had, fewer than half (41 per cent) felt it was adequate.
But the teachers surveyed were well aware of the pitfalls.
More than half of the respondents to the survey said they would be prepared to teach pupils about issues relating to pornography if they received specific training, with almost 70 per cent stating they would like the subject covered in continuous professional development sessions.
Six out of 10 respondents said they would have concerns delivering lessons around sexually explicit content.
Of those, 60 per cent said they would have concerns with pupils not taking the subject seriously and 51 per cent said they felt it may put their reputation at risk.
Many people have felt uneasy about the mainstreaming of pornography in our society over the past 20 years, not least because of its depiction of women.
And the ATL survey, for me, is more evidence that this is not a case of prudes versus free-thinkers.
This isn't the 1960s, and this isn't about sexual revolution for grown-ups.
This is a rapacious industry spreading its tentacles to get money out of us all by appealing to our basest instincts, reducing relationships to something so very joyless.
And it is clearly now reaching out to the next generation of consumers using peer pressure as a powerful tool.
Karl Marx thought religion the opiate of the masses.
Now, it's porn.