Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Friday, 9 April 2010 15:37 UK

Pupils taught using violent game

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Still from Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto is rated 18

Stills from violent video game Grand Theft Auto are being used to teach primary school children about violence.

The 18-rated game is being used as part of a police-backed pilot scheme in primary schools in Merseyside to deter youngsters from aggressive behaviour.

Under the scheme, 10 and 11-year-olds are shown stills from the games, which allow players to beat up prostitutes.

These are used alongside real-life images to prompt a discussion on what is good, bad, real and unreal.

Under the Get Real scheme run by the charity Support After Murder and Manslaughter (Samm) and Merseyside Police, children are given trading cards from the video game alongside real-life images of parents arguing or of drunkenness.

Children have very short attention spans so they need something that keeps them interested
Gaynor Bell

Clips from the Tom and Jerry-satirising cartoon Itchy and Scratchy, from the Simpsons, are also used alongside role-playing in the Home Office-funded project.

Pupils are then asked to differentiate between good, bad, real and unreal life events.

One of its founders, Gaynor Bell, who lost two children in violent deaths, said the project was created to try to turn children away from violence at a young age.

Despite the game's 18-rated status, she said many children would have played it, and similar games, at home with elder siblings, and that they risked being de-sensitised to the violence involved.

She added: "They are shown a picture of a man rolling over a car and you can clearly see it has a machine gun.

"It's basically telling them that it's not real life, but in these games they do look real."

She added: "Children have very short attention spans so they need something that keeps them interested, preferably busy with their hands and it has to be something that allows them to be proactive."

The workshops are run in schools with a police officer, the class teacher and two members of Samm and are subsequently followed up with further work.

Samm works with young offenders, and those at risk of offending, to try to turn them away from crime.

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said: "Almost any media can be edited to be educational and if the material already attracts children's interest, it can have a greater impact on them.

"This may well be depicting knife-using car thieves as the selfish morons that they are - which of course we would welcome."

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