“Squid Game”: No child’s play

Status: 04.11.2021 01:04 p.m.

The Netflix series “Squid Game” is about seemingly harmless children’s games, but they end brutally for the losers. The game has long since reached the playgrounds. Experts are alarmed.

Suddenly the players are standing at the end of a walled courtyard the size of a soccer field. At the other end is a figure of a meter high girl. If she turns her back on the players, they are allowed to run. If the figure turns around, all players have to stop dead in their tracks. Anyone who moves will be shot. “Red light, green light” is the name of this brutal game in the Netflix series “Squid Game”, which is now being played in German playgrounds. Anyone who loses receives a slap in the face or is verbally abused.

This is what happened in Augsburg, for example, as research by the Bavarian Broadcasting showed. Cases have also been reported from Schleswig-Holstein. In Lower Saxony, when re-enacting two schools, losers were struck or punished in some other way, writes the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs.

And in Hesse, too, there are elementary schools where students re-enact parts of the series, especially games that are easy to re-enact. “Sometimes there are no consequences if you lose, sometimes playful punishments such as mutual wrangling,” said the Ministry of Education there. Teachers should now ensure that acting out does not lead to violent acts.

“Scary Levels of Violence”

Other federal states have now reacted and sensitized the schools to the topic. “We see a frightening level of violence in the series,” said Sascha Aulepp, Bremen’s Senator for Education.

Parallels to bullying

For Hanna Christiansen, Professor of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology at the University of Marburg, the hype is nothing unusual: “Until recently, you had to play ‘Fortnite’ to be part of it, or have looked at ‘House of Money’. Now is it ‘Squid Game’ “. From their point of view, however, it becomes questionable when children violently re-enact the series: “If children are slapped or insulted, it is no longer a game.”

Games were used to enable children to try out social rules and playfully test their position in the social group, says Christiansen. “If this character is abolished, the freedom of social experimentation is restricted and threatened.” Social withdrawal and fears could be the consequences – she warns against group formation: “The children who have won on the one hand and the others who are humiliated on the other.” This is exactly what happens with bullying. “We now know very well from studies how harmful that is.”

Netflix recommends the series from 16

Christiansen finds the fact that elementary school students are already watching the series particularly worrying. Experts therefore advocate paying attention to the age specified by Netflix from 16 years of age. Otherwise, the children get to see scenes in which the players kill each other in flickering light at night, sometimes with iron bars, sometimes with their bare hands.

“A six-year-old child is still completely immersed in the film plot, suffers and fears with the characters who identify with it. Moments of tension and threats can be coped with, but must not last too long or have too long a lasting effect. A positive resolution of conflict situations is decisive,” cited Psychologist Christiansen Evaluation criteria based on the voluntary self-regulation of the film industry (FSK) for offline media such as cinema films or DVD. She does not see such criteria in “Squid Game”: “The tension and threat elements are very long and there is no positive resolution of the conflict situations, but the losers are killed and this is shown very explicitly.”

Even if the parents watch the series with the children, it is no better. On the contrary: “Ultimately, parents legitimize series consumption and accept that their children will be overwhelmed by the images.”

A socio-political problem?

In Lower Saxony, the phenomenon is seen as a socio-political problem, not an educational problem: “When children of the after-school age watch series that are only intended for young people from the age of 16, then that has nothing to do with deficits in teaching media skills at school, but rather with education or supervision deficits, “said a ministry spokesman.

In Augsburg, the schools have meanwhile discussed the slaps and insults. “The children were amazed and shocked by their actions. The dismay was very great. That is good because it was a fruitful result of the meeting,” said Markus Wörle from the city’s education authority. How will things continue after the Bavarian autumn break? “It’s either calmed down or it’s getting worse.”


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