Playing GTA5 – aka Grand Theft Auto 5

“I like to drive around and when I see a strip club, I just drive past, but sometimes I go in and shoot them up”, shared a young girl in a Year 3 – 4 (7-9 years of age) class in a province of New Zealand.

This open sharing came up while I was working with a great group of students recently around digital safety and wellbeing. We were having a korero (chat) about the idea of age restrictions on online platforms, apps and games as several boys said they play GTA 5 (Grand Theft Auto 5), an online game that carries a R18 under New Zealand classification laws. Many in the group also indicated they used apps such as Tiktok and Snapchat when first asked what they like to do online.

With great care taken to talk in safe and appropriate ways to children, we chatted further about reasons why age restrictions exist.  I think we got somewhere, when we related it back to the design and intention behind many of these gripping and exciting spaces and activities online. We unpacked the idea that age restrictions exist because there’s a ‘why’ attached to the reasoning. These were the ideas that together we navigated in our korero:

Why we should think about age-restricted online spaces and activities:

  • they weren’t designed (by people) with children’s safety and wellbeing in mind
  • they’re spaces co-shared with adults and teens, and
  • they think and behave differently to younger people
  • not everyone has kind and safe intentions online
  • content can be ‘full-on’ and there’s things we might not like, or understand
  • there’s time and opportunity ahead when we’re older to play these or use these spaces
  • there’s plenty of safer and fun games, apps, and activities online that’s been made for younger people with their safety more so at the forefront

…and maybe, just maybe there’s some seeds of hope that critical thinking has been aroused, and some new thoughts have been triggered that what we do and what we see online might not be okay for us right now.

There’s a lot of work ahead of us, those in this space positively educating around the safe, responsible, ethical aspects of online engagement and device use and reaching whānau, raising critical thinking and agency in our young people, and supporting leaders and kaimahi in schools and kura. Stay the course and lean in…

Tangata ako ana I te kāenga, te tūranga ki te marae, tau ana
A person nurtured in the community contributes strongly to society