Children who pretend to shoot themselves. Others who whip themselves with dancing ropes. Or who play “deadly” dodgeball. These are some of the games improvised by elementary school children during recess and inspired by the popular TV series Squid Game. All over Quebec, school personnel are taken aback by the scale of the phenomenon.
Became Netflix’s biggest hit of all time, Squid Game (The squid game) is a Korean series, released a month ago. Over nine episodes, this dystopia tells how the poorest in society, attracted by a jackpot of nearly $ 50 million, participate in a game made up of 6 events. Only one player will be the winner; all the others will be eliminated… that is, killed. The images are bloody and some scenes sadistic. So much so that the series is classified “18 years and over” by the broadcaster.
In primary schools, children aged 8 to 12 have fun reproducing scenes from the series. “Out of 23 of my students, 10 saw it, 9 of which alone, without supervision”, says Annie Bergeron, teacher of 6e year in a school on the South Shore of Montreal.
Some students have started playing 1-2-3 Soleil by pretending to die when they are excluded. All the teachers have talked about it and are aware of it. We have spread the message and we are staying on the lookout. It doesn’t make sense!
Annie Bergeron, teacher of 6e year
The same version of the game was reinvented at another school, this time with dancing ropes… which the students used to “whip” the losers. “There was quickly an intervention, and the dancing ropes were removed from the game bins,” says Marie-Ève, a postgraduate professor who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to media.
In her class, she estimates “that at least a third” of her 11 and 12-year-old students have seen the series, in part or in full. “Even those who haven’t seen her use terms related to the show, they choose words that describe the show, violent words,” she says.
Like Marie-Ève, several teachers have taken the initiative to send a note to the parents of their students. “I don’t want to tell them what to do at home, but I wanted them to know that watching the series has consequences at school,” said Karine, teacher at 5e year in Montreal, who also preferred to speak on condition of anonymity.
Éric Théroux, teacher of 6e year in a school in the north crown of Montreal, tried to defuse the situation as soon as he saw it arise. “I listened to the show and when my students started telling me about it, I was ready to discuss different aspects, like the social experience aspect,” he says. It’s important to keep up to date! “
A good accompaniment
Social worker in a school in Montreal, Jessica Phipps believes that not all young people are “ready” to receive the images of the series. The squid game. “Some are more mature, others are not. And then, they will have a hard time assimilating, she explains. But with good support, supervision and a discussion with parents, some young people will be comfortable listening to it. It is on a case-by-case basis. “
Screen management remains THE sensitive issue when it comes to viewing this series … “The scale of the series makes us aware of the power of Netflix and social networks”, says Janick Paquin, social work technician in schools in Abitibi. “Kids see clips on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and can play series-related games on Roblox, for example. It shows the impact of screen management. “
Some parents were amazed to learn that their child had listened to the series. “I discovered by chance that my 13-year-old brother had listened to her,” says Maryline Hébert, a 28-year-old Montrealer. He hid the truth from us and he stepped in when we confronted him. But then he told us how stressed he was listening to it, he felt like he himself was a participant in the game… He had nightmares, he got sick in his stomach and he was sick. is biting his nails. “
Same story for Nicole Boulanger, from Victoriaville: her 9-year-old boy had a seizure when she discovered that he had watched the first episodes of the series at a friend’s house, without his permission. “He screamed, cried, he panicked,” she says. I had never seen him the same! He no longer wants to sleep alone in his bed, he is afraid, he tells me that it does not get out of his head. ”
Charlène Goulet Arbic, mother of three children aged 12, 10 and 7, forbade her clan to listen to her… but her eldest child saw two episodes while he was visiting a friend. “We’ve talked about it,” she said, “and luckily he doesn’t have nightmares or anxiety, but he wants to disguise himself as Squid Game on Halloween, with the red jumpsuit and the mask. With his friends, there will be six or seven disguised in the same way. “
The disguise is also all the rage: on several online stores, it is out of stock.
Do not trivialize … nor dramatize
Psychologist Nadia Gagnier admits that studies show that exposure to violence through media, including television, can lead to desensitization, decreased empathy and increased aggressive behavior in children. But according to her, we should neither trivialize nor dramatize.
“From the age of 8, a child can understand the difference between reality and fiction,” she says. The biggest influence children have are their parents. If the child evolves in a stable and peaceful environment, it is not because he has seen an episode that he will become a psychopath! That does not necessarily mean that we have slipped as a parent either. “
According to her, it is better not to allow her child to listen to the series by explaining why it is opposed. And if we decide to comply with the request, Mme Gagnier argues that it is preferable to accompany your child in listening. “It’s the parent’s role to educate and help their child develop a critical eye,” she says. If we forbid without offering a discussion or a reflection, we deprive ourselves of an educational opportunity… and we risk having even less control, which can harm the maintenance of the link. What we want is to continue to have a positive influence on him. “