Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Violent video games no worse than playing with toy soldiers, ex-SAS operative claims

The debate about whether video games are harmful to children’s development has been rekindled after former SAS operative Andy McNab responded to a coroner’s plea for parents to keep young children away from “inappropriate games”.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 7 September

Violent video games no worse than playing with toy soldiers, ex-SAS operative claims


The debate about whether video games are harmful to children’s development has been rekindled after former SAS operative Andy McNab responded to a coroner’s plea for parents to keep young children away from “inappropriate games”.

The remark, made by coroner John Pollard, formed part of the inquest into the death of 14-year-old Callum Green from Stockport. After an argument with his family on March 25 last year, the teenager said he was going to his room to play computer games. Later that evening his mother found him hanged.

Mr Pollard did not blame video games for Callum’s death, however The Manchester Evening News reported he said he had seen “evidence of inappropriate games” in inquests.

“Age limitations on these various computer games are there for a very valid reason. It’s very important that young children don’t have access to them. I would make a plea that parents do keep a close eye on what children do play.”

However, writing in The Sun, Mr McNab said such criticism was “unfounded”, adding that he felt playing video games could be compared to past generations playing with toy soldiers.

“There have always been people that claim video games are bad for you. They’re probably the same people that were worried when films first became ‘talkies’ and then got themselves worried about the switch to colour cinema from black and white. It’s the same argument but for a different format and a new generation.”

Mr McNab also pointed out that the game’s heroes do the right thing and teach children “lessons of morality”.

The effect of violent video games continues to be a contentious topic. In May of this year, politicians submitted an Early Day Motion asking the government to “provide for closer scrutiny of aggressive first-person shooter video games” after the revelation that the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik considered the popular game Call of Duty “training”.

Questions for discussion


For primary:

  • Do you like to play video games? Why/why not?
  • Can you think of any behaviour you have seen on TV or in games which should not be copied in real life?

For secondary:

  • How do you feel about age certificates? Are they necessary?
  • Do you think that films and video games can influence behaviour? Or are people always responsible for their own actions?



Related resources


Violence debate

  • Structure a well-researched class discussion with these debating notes from InstituteofIdeas.

The effects of gaming

  • Explore issues of regulation with this PowerPoint on audience effects.

Child’s play

  • What is the impact of video games on children? Hear Tom Maher discuss the issue in a video from dystalk.

Games-based learning

  • Find resources to help you use video games in a positive way in the classroom with this collection of resources.

Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week


Qualifications widely used in schools in 20 foreign languages ­ including Hindi, Cantonese and Tamil ­are facing the axe under plans drawn up by one of the major exam boards.

In its heyday, Hello! magazine was synonymous with the latest gossip from the lives of Wags and reality television stars. However, amid falling circulation the publication has announced a change of direction.

David Laws has been appointed education minister in the first major reshuffle for the Coalition government since the general election of 2010.

Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius has apologised for the timing of controversial comments made about the winner of his 200m race.




In the news archive index