A primary school in Sydney's inner west has urged parents not to let their kids watch Netflix's hyperviolent Squid Game, after students as young as 6 and 7 mimicked the games in the playground.
The South Korean survival drama in which cash-strapped contestants compete in deadly tasks inspired by playground games, set against a bleak dystopian backdrop has taken the world – and internet – by storm.
Warnings have been issued by schools across the globe, including in Britain, Asia, Europe and the UK, following reports of students playing "unhealthy and dangerous" games inspired by the series.
A similar message to parents was sent out today by Linda Wickham, the principal of Dulwich Hill Public School.
"Squid Game features scenes that depict extreme violence and gore, strong language and frightening moments that are, according to its rating, simply not suitable for primary and early high school aged children," Wickham wrote.
"An aggressive version of a familiar children's game, red light, green light, is played in the series. This, and other inappropriate content are negatively influencing playground games."
In the MA-rated show – on track to become Netflix's most watched series ever – "Red Light, Green Light" sees participants walk towards a murderous puppet after it calls out "green light". When the doll shouts, "red light", the contestant must freeze before the dummy turns around – or they'll be shot dead.
Wickham asked parents to change their Netflix settings to prevent children from watching the programme, and to closely monitor their online activity to further minimise exposure.
"Violent language and aggressive behaviours may be easily mimicked by children, particularly outside the confines of your home and in the wider space of a school playground.
"Withholding the capacity of your children to access inappropriate content … will certainly assist to keep them safe and their growing minds to stay healthy."
In a lengthy post to their Facebook earlier this week, national cyber safety educators Safe on Social Media said that "several schools" had contacted them recently to express their concerns about Squid Game.
"The messages in Squid Game are not appropriate for young teens and tweens. Parents should know that the level of violence is highly intense in Squid Game, and it is not suitable for young teens and primary school-age children," they wrote.
"Even though adults have overwhelmingly positive reviews about this series, there is a lot of torture and murder that seem to be celebrated. The concept of the super-rich using misery of poor and desperate humans is certainly not new for horror … The amount of killing is horrific, and the methods are awful."
The group advised parents "watch it first and talk to your kids about the themes if you decide to let them watch it".
"Consider the impact and possible desensitisation to extreme violence, gambling, and addiction.
"Make sure your children/students know that playing violent games like this at school is not OK under any circumstances."
Child psychologist and head of the NSW branch of the Australian Parents' Council, Rose Cantali, told the Age she had not watched the show but had heard about its violence.
"The concerns are that children do bring it to the playground where they do apply those types of things in their own games," Cantali said.
"This virtual gaming is very impressionable to them, they start taking on the characters and mimicking things they do.
"Kids are very impressionable, and with these games, sometimes they can't see the difference between virtual and real.
"My advice to parents would be to watch any show that children are watching, that's a must, and minimise any series that promotes excessive violence, and where kids can easily get involved in a character and a game."
- Natalie Brown, news.com.au