Sacha Kent is an Education Manager at YGAM following six years working in the safeguarding of children and young people. She received her masters in Criminology from Portsmouth in 2019, continuing her passion for safeguarding young people through academic studies. Sacha writes for YGAM about the important conversations that could now happen with young people as a result of the global phenomenon that is the Squid Game.

No publicity is bad publicity, as they say. Raising awareness and encouraging safeguarding conversations with young people is always a positive.

Every now and then a video game, film, or TV programme enters the public consciousness which provokes curiosity. The resulting media interest and publicising, positive or negative, results in even more people consuming the product.

Squid Game was released in the UK in September 2021. The South Korean Netflix series follows the stories of characters who are millions of Korean Won in debt. Their desperation to regain financial control is the focal plot point. Offered the chance to compete in games they would have played as children to win an increasing amount of money, they soon find that the price paid is gambling with the other contestants’ lives.

Squid Game has an age rating of 15

The series has become Netflix’s biggest ever watched show. But there has been discussion around whether the show should have increased it’s given age rating. This controversy is due to multiple scenes of violence and sex, with additional themes around gambling, drugs and drinking.

This, in part, has led to a huge increase in media coverage. Convention though would say this attention has led to an increase in viewers. Following the ‘hype’, a large number of underage young people have been watching, causing it, and subjects such as gambling and violence to be the talk of the school.

It’s easy to say, ‘just don’t let your children watch it if they’re underage’. With the continued rise in platforms such as YouTube and TikTok alongside an increasing number of devices to watch these on, it becomes a much more difficult task to monitor.

Squid Game is also influencing video games such as Roblox (age rating 7) and Fortnite (age rating 12). Even if they had not been aware of the Netflix programme, with it infiltrating gaming, it risks them searching for more information and higher exposure to adult themes such as gambling. It becomes almost impossible to monitor a young person’s media intake without restricting every form of entertainment. There have even been reports from primary schools in the UK saying that children have been recreating Squid Game in the playground.

Squid Game was watched by over 111 million viewers in the first month.

Age guides are advisory, and people will have different views on what young people are allowed to watch. It’s also very much dependant on the maturity and personality of that particular young person, making it impossible for us to get it right every time.

Whether we’re parents, carers, older siblings, relatives, teachers, youth leaders or anyone who has direct contact with young people, we need to be there to open up the conversation around what they are watching or playing.

It’s important they have support if they do see something they are concerned about on TV or whilst gaming. Squid Game could start a conversation about the similarities and differences between playing games and gambling. Ask young people what they are watching at the moment, maybe watch it with them or see whether there’s anything they’ve seen that might have worried or shocked them. Speak to them about things you’ve seen that you wish you hadn’t. This lets them know it’s ok to have different reactions to what your friend’s reaction or to not understand something. They may also find something concerning that they hadn’t thought about before.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

It’s important to let them know that if they do ‘accidentally’ (or otherwise!)’ come across something that has worried them, frightened them, or just that they want to talk about, that they can talk to you. Break down the barriers and reassure them that the support is there and get them talking about the subjects rather than keeping it bottled up inside.

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. As it becomes harder to physically monitor everything children are viewing, it becomes increasingly important they can have open conversations so they get the support they may need.

If you’re stuck for ideas on how to start these conversations, our workshops and free resources cover these topics for parents and professionals. To be one of the first to have access to our brand-new resources (coming soon!) specifically aimed at the concerns raised by programmes like Squid Game, book onto one of our workshops below.

If you are concerned about your child’s relationship with gaming or gambling, or just want some further information. Click here to book onto our FREE Parents Awareness Workshop.

If you work with children and young people and would like more information on our FREE City & Guilds assured training, you can register here.