10 November 2021 (by Michelle Sutcliffe (mSutcliffe))
We are becoming increasingly concerned about the very harmful behaviour being displayed by children as young as 7 years of age who are watching footage from the Netflix series “Squid Game”.
Worldwide there are currently over 110 million regular viewers of this series.
The UK based safeguarding group Ineqe has undertaken some research and guidance about this game and its effects which we include as follows:Harmful Content in the Show
Currently, Squid Game has a rating of 15+ as the visual content includes high levels of gore, death, violence, and physical assault. It also has graphic depictions of suicide, murder, and sexual assault.
Children and young people are likely to know about Squid Game via word of mouth and social media/gaming platforms. They may be unaware of the extent of gore, death, and violence the show contains. It also focuses on adult themes (such as gambling, debt, and sex) that are not appropriate for younger viewers. For young people who live with mental health issues, they may be triggered by some of the content.
The aesthetic of Squid Game, especially in promotional images and material, appears innocent and childlike. This is to provide a clash with the excessively violent content that is meant to be jarring and unsettling to viewers.
How does my child know about this?
As this is a cultural phenomenon, Squid Game has become a popular subject of memes, games, and online conversation. It is entirely possible for a child or young person to know all about Squid Game – without actually watching the show.
Popular gaming platforms Roblox and Fortnite have also seen a sharp increase in user-designed games recreating those in Squid Game. These can be played by anyone. They are also being heavily livestreamed by many gaming streamers on YouTube and Twitch as the show is currently trending, and mentioning it is an easy way to attract an audience.
Parents and carers should be aware that video content from this show is found extensively on TikTok, which could also increase interest in watching the show. Remember: even if you restrict the young person in your care from watching Squid Game, they may be able to access content on other platforms.
The Risks of Recreation
Due to the overwhelming popularity of Squid Game and its challenge-based plot, many of the themes within the show have become popular on social media platforms. Depictions of these games have started to become popular as people film themselves recreating them – without the murderous outcome. The most popular are:
Red Light, Green Light
Players attempt to reach a spot in the allotted time in a stop-start fashion. A particular image from the show being recreated from the show involves the giant doll-like robot that runs this game and monitors any movement.
Players must cut out one of four shapes in a thin disc of honeycomb using a needle without breaking the shape. This has become popular on TikTok.
It’s unlikely that children and young people would have the means to entirely recreate the games featured in the show in real life. A lot of them include specialised weapons, sets, and equipment.
However, there is a concern that a child or young person may unintentionally put themselves in harm’s way by trying to recreate a small portion of these childhood games. Some reports have seen children using physical violence in the playground to ‘punish’ losers as a substitute for the player losing their life. If a child attempts to recreate the Honeycomb Game, there is a risk of burns from caramelised sugar if they attempt to make the honeycomb themselves. Some users have also tried heating sharp objects over flames like characters in the show to make cutting an image out of honeycomb easier.
Practical Tips and Guidance to parents / carers
Ineqe have put together a Netflix Safety Guide to set viewing restrictions, profile locks, PIN codes and more, very useful for parents and carers
If you notice a child in your care is recreating one of the games found in Squid Game or if they mention it to you, it is important not to assume they have watched the show. Ask them what they know about Squid Game and how they heard about it. Ensure that children and young people in your care know who they can talk to if they come across something that upsets or distresses them online.
Consider the age and ability of your child alongside the platform they use
Consider talking to your child about harmful content online
Engage your child in a natural way and ask questions to see what they know