I’m a gamer. Outside of school I enjoy playing boardgames and computer games. I started secondary school when the first computers that could be classed as home computers became available, so it was in a sense inevitable. The former hobby doesn’t impact on ethics, but computer gaming definitely does have the potential for ethical dilemmas.
The reason why there are ethical dilemmas is because of the online nature of many games. Teaching at a boys school, being a gamer has a lot of advantages. I can talk to boys about different games, the latest releases, how they are doing in a particular game. It’s a way of forming a relationship. Other teachers talk about rugby and other sports, I use gaming for discussion.
But with both PS4 and Xbox (the main gaming consoles) to access the online games you need an online identity. On the Xbox this is your gamertag. You choose who to share your gamertag with and then you can play online games together, send messages etc. In a way this is like allowing someone to become your Facebook (or other social media) friend.
The first thing to note is that if I was playing a R18 game, what would I do if I had made friends with my students and they started playing the same game?
It could be argued that this is irrelevant, it is outside of school, the parents are in charge and I have no responsibility over them outside of school hours. However, there are problems when we get back into school. One question the Connecticut Teaching and Education Mentoring Program (2012) asks is “In this situation, what are some potential negative consequences for the teacher, for the students and the school community?”
In this instance there are quite a lot of negative consequences. This could seem like a ‘club’ where I am giving unfair advantage to the students I have friended. This could be viewed as an inequality. What if I ended up punishing a student and not another (for valid reasons) but the punished student felt I’d been tougher on him because I was a gaming friend on Xbox?
Playing online R18 games with underage students would make me complicit with their breaking the law (and it is a law). Hall (2001) suggests that it’s an idea to ask “What would happen if everyone did that?“. In this case, what would happen if we ignored age ratings? Would it be ok to ignore the law on drinking and go to a bar with underage students? As well as the students, The parents and the school are stakeholders and would not be impressed if this came to light, which is likely.
Another issue is the fact that when online gaming you are sharing on a social network. Even though this may seem innocuous, it still has with it the same ethical dilemmas associated with being a friend to a student on Facebook. Communication can be ‘secret’. There is a record of conversations made, but there is the potential for someone to effectively groom a student using this system as a communication tool.
I could also be party to hearing things that could bring up other dilemmas. What If I heard things that were illegal or suggested a student was at risk of self harm, etc.?
From my perspective, the act of online gaming is nothing to be worried about. However, despite students nagging for me to reveal my Gamertag, I will never do so in the same way I will not befriend students in Facebook, Twitter or any other social network. Maintaining a professional distance ensures I can discuss my hobby and not fall victim to the ethical issues that would inevitably arise.
Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program. (2012). Ethical and Professional Dilemmas for Educators: Facilitator’s Guide. Retrieved from http://www.ctteam.org/df/resources/Module5_Manual….
Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from http://www.educationalleaders.govt.nz/Culture/Developing-leaders/What-Ought-I-to-Do-All-Things-Considered-An-Approach-to-the-Exploration-of-Ethical-Problems-by-Teachers