What's worse:  Letting a young kid PLAY "Grand Theft Auto" . . . or letting him take the first steps toward actually living it out?

The police in Lancashire, England pulled over an 11-YEAR-OLD kid who was driving a car in a parking lot on Sunday.

And the adult family member who was with him told the cops they'd taken him out to practice driving as a way to get him to stop playing "Grand Theft Auto" all day.

The family member was hit with several traffic charges.  There's no word on what their exact relationship is to the kid.