by A2 Media class
Are the nation’s children at risk from dangerous video games? What effect do video games have on children’s behaviour? How are video games currently regulated? How could this be improved? These are some of the questions that the Byron Report (2008) tried to address. The report was an independent, government commissioned review of the risks children face from video games (and the internet).
Dr Tanya Byron discovered firstly how integral these new technologies have become to the lives of young people and second, how important it is that we educate ourselves about the benefits and dangers they bring. This article will focus on Byron’s findings and recommendations in regard to video games.
Byron’s key findings:
- Video games are very popular with children and young people and offer a range of opportunities for fun, learning and development.
- There are concerns, however over potentially inappropriate material (e.g. violence) and debates and research into this issue can be highly polarised and charged with emotion. Criticism includes violent games leading to violent behaviour and that excessive use can be at the expense of other activities and social interaction. (Although finding a direct cause and effect in terms of violence is far too simplistic-other factors come into play like the child’s socio-economic context and psychology).
- Negative effects of violent content in games only become ‘harmful’ when children present other risk factors. Arousal brought on by some games can produce stress like symptoms in some children. Younger children may have affected perceptions and expectations of the real world as a result of games. We should, therefore, change the nature of our approach and interventions in the video game world with children’s growing competencies and changing vulnerabilities.
- There is a ‘digital generational divide’ with parents not confident about helping children manage risks in the online world.
- Moving away from a discussion around the media ‘causing’ harm, to looking at what children bring to technology and how we can empower them to manage risks safely.
- Developing a ‘shared culture of responsibility’ with families, the industry and the government working together to make the digital world safer.
- Pooling the efforts of the games industry, retailers, advertisers, console manufacturers and online gaming providers to raise awareness of what is in games and enable better enforcement. There is no single solution to the problem of children playing games too old for them.
- Reforming the classification system and improving the systems already in place to help parents restrict children’s access to games not suitable for their age.
- The statutory requirement to age classify games be extended to include those receiving 12+ ratings.
- Introducing a hybrid classification system in which BBFC logos (i.e. 18, 15, 12, PG, U) and PEGI ratings (3+, 7+ etc) are on the front of all games. Also The BBFC and PEGI work together to develop a joint approach to rating online games and driving up safety standards for children and young people in the games, under the auspices of the UK council for child internet safety.
- Sustained high profile and targeted efforts by industry to increase parents’ understanding and use of age ratings, content and controls on consoles.
- Better in store information for parents/children/young people.
- More effort to monitor enforcement of the statutory age ratings where games are sold/rented.
- Advertising and video games industry should unite to improve the guidance on the appropriate targeting and content of video games adverts in line with age classifications.
- That console manufacturer’s work together to raise standards in parental controls on consoles, delivering clear and easy to use prompts and better information for parents on where console controls meet agreed standards.
Byron concludes that everyone has a role to play in empowering children to stay safe while they enjoy these new technologies, just as it’s everyone’s responsibilities to keep children safe in the non-digital world.
Are Byron’s recommendations sensible? Will they work? Is there anything else that needs to be done? Who is mostly responsible for ensuring that children do not access material inappropriate for their age? Is playing a violent video game really dangerous?
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