The Byron Review will today call for cinema-style age ratings for computer games to protect children from violent or sexual content. Telly pyschologist Tanya Byron proposes a legally binding system of age ratings for games as well as better protection for children using the internet. She wants improved security and privacy …
predictable in the slightest.
How much was she paid to come up with this?
Where can I get a job like it?
Got one already!
By the way, how about a link to the kiddies version of the report.
Might be handy for some of your less linguistically articulate readership
This report will make he-haw difference in the real world.
So the rating system we already have is of no use?
The blame lies not at the games industry but squarely with the parents. The number of times I have seen parents buy their 12 year old a clearly rated 18 game like Grand Theft Auto is unbelievable. They think it is a game so it won't hurt anyone. Then again I've been paying games for years and I haven't gone on a murder spree or go out car jacking.
I guess the government needs to order a load more cotton wool for its people!!!
Maybe I've been living under a rock like Byron?
If I walk into a shop to look at games they all have U,PG,12,15,18 BBFC ratings on them. I thought that the BBFC rate games in the same way they rate films i.e. Manhunt 2 couldn't be released because the BBFC refused to give it a rating.
If the huge red circle with a number in it is too hard for some of these parents (and Byron) to see then they need to get themselves down to specsavers, or even better: get them to drive off beachy head and do the world a favour!
It doesn't matter
You can put all the ratings you want on the computer games but I guarantee it will not stop little Johnny 4-year-old getting his hands on the latest copy of GTA. You can regulate all you want but half the parents don't care what their kids play anyway. Or they'll just go and download it off the web like they do now....
She is relatively fit but..
Thats no reason for her to tell us whats good, bad, right, wrong whatever. If you don't want your sprogs exposed to stuff get rid of the telly, the xbox, the pc, books and definitely don't let em go to school.
Why shouldn't children be desensitised to violence it's been encouraged for so long up till now e.g. tom & jerry cartoons, the chuckle brothers, gladiators, rugby etc.
Hang on a minute...
I could have sworn we had this already.
Or aren't the PEGI ratings legally enforceable?
PEGI is a voluntary system, although once in place it is illegal for persons under the age to purchase the game. In United Kingdom, if publishers of a game choose not to use the PEGI system it will be given a rating by the BBFC or in certain cases given no rating at all. However, it is not illegal for persons under the age to play the game, as it is a system of helping parents of children make informed decisions on buying the game. It is entirely the parent's choice whether to purchase a game for a minor.
So, if it's already legally enforceable - where it's sought - what's the problem other than that it's not mandated?
How much has that cost us?
Oh great, 'long awaited review' only tells us what's been said before.
Maybe Aunty Tanya can have a go at the telly broadcasters -- This Easter we've been fed a constant stream of Jesus being kicked around, tortured and lovely shots of blood and gore -- all in the name of religion. It seems O.K. to have Mel Gibson's Last wotsit and even Braveheart shown with all the blood and gore of both films. "No more Heroes" on the Wii doesn't have the gore factor of either but has a 16+ rating on the box.
Someone should sit on the naughty step but just like in her programmes, it's usually not really the children that need educating, it's the parents. In this case substitute us lot for the kids and HM Gov for mum and dad. It's the way we've been brought up by our elders and betters.
Here we go again....
Woo, yet another TV "personality" takes a 20 year old issue, looks up the usual argument and presents it as a new cause no-one has ever addressed!
Oh the joy....
My PS3 already does this, linked to the rating of the game and will prevent playback of any game with a higher rating than the permission set for sub-accounts (ie my sons), which has some interesting side-affects - He can play Heavenly Sword (rated 15) but can't play Ninja Gaiden Sigma (also rated 15) due to voluntary rating applied to it by manufacturer as Cat 9 not Cat 7 making it effectively an 18 rated game!
I'm behind this classification on games 100%. Maybe this is one step, regardless of how small, towards minors being able to get hold of the game. Hopefully some adult can be held responsible if some apparent game related death happens. Perhaps this may take the pressure off games companies slightly
And how is putting an  sticker on the back of the box going to stop Mrs Smith buying 'Zombie Death Ninja' for little Johnny's 15th birthday? Will Ms Byron, or better still, Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, hem hem, pop round to see if my kids aren't being subjected to stuff?
Don't we have these already?
All my 360 games have certificates on, most of them '18'. What the hell is this woman on about?
Had a chance but missed the target ....
Listening to the coverage of this on the radio, including an interview on the Today programme, leads me to believe that the target has been missed again.
Despite having no evidence linking to computer games to violent behaviour the view has been taken that this must be the case. There is no single proof of it but it must logically follow was the argument used.
The target that was so widely missed was the parents. It doesn't matter what regulatory framework you have in place if the parents a) aren't aware of it or b) don't understand what the kids are doing. They dragged out a couple of parents, one that didn't understand the current videogame labelling and another that didn't know what their kids were doing on the internet.
The conversation is always about how to 'shield' children from things. Its up to the parents to take an interest in what their children are doing, to educate them about dangers etc. You can't, and shouldn't, protect them from everything otherwise they'll grow up totally unprepared for the world. Of course in order to do this the parents have to educate themselves rather than just buy stuff for the kids and leave them to it.
Only reasonable really.
I'm very anti censorship, but pro classification. It's just bringing them into line with dvds. When are they going to hit books and magazines though?
is it just me...
or do we seem to have a female version of Jack Thompson in the UK now. This woman needs to stop whinging and work out that the real problem is parents who ignore the age ratings ALREADY IN PLACE on computer/console games and give in to pester power.
"I want MANHUNT2"
"But honey it has an 18 Rating on it, I really don't think this is suitable"
"I WANT! I WANT! I WANT!
There's a term for this.
Again it is another bit of proof that a gov't and organizations that cannot control themselves stating stating "do as I say not as I do".
This way they can take a little bit more responsibility away from the parent who let thier children run wild so they can justify the way children react.
Putting a rating system on games will make them a lot more appealing to children. the higher the rating the more I wanted to watch a movie when I was younger. It did not make me a menace but I always wondered after watching why it was so horrible.
Ed Balls was on the BBC ths morning commenting on this very subject saying that parents understand the BBFC Film Classifications and that if a film is rated 18 they don't let their child see it. He added that there should be the same kind of rating for games as parents are confused.
Looking at the games on my shelf right now, my eye is immediately drawn to the 15 and 18 BBFC ratings prominently marked on the copies of the Metal Gear Solid games and the Grand Theft Auto series.
Is this some OTHER BBFC that's been rating these games as not suitable for children and putting large, easily recognisable symbols on the boxes?
I think we should be told.
Even the pegi ratings are large numbers that specify the minimum age suitability.
How confused can these parents really be?
"Well this game entitled 'Killfest 3' with the picture of the severed head on the front says that's it's only suitable for ages 18+.. but my little Jimmy is a really MATURE 9 year old so I'll get it for him as he's been asking for it every day for a week. That'll keep him quiet"
most shops enforce the rules from what I've seen.
The fact of the matter is it's normaly parents games for there kids.
Also in a house hold where you couldn't trust a kid to be sensible with a computer, games, life in general (one that doesn't know right from wrong or reality from fantasy.) Is that the parent doesn't want them in the front room with them.
My old dear used to get me 18 rated films and such like when I was 11 becouse I knew the difference between right and wrong. Sure I couldn't get t3h pronz but then who'd want their mum buying them porn?
I'm constantly amazed that anyone thinks a rating system will have an effect, as if somehow the parent buying GTA will be amazed that games are somehow inappropriate for little Johnny if they have an 18 sticker all of a sudden. Apart from the fact that games are already rated; does anyone seriously believe that the current generation of parents (aged twentysomething to fifty) are so wilfully unaware of a debate thats been going on for twenty years? In fact, since most of those parents were children themselves? It beggars belief. Surely the simpler explanation is that most parents don't give a toss what media their kids consume and all the ratings in the world won't make a blind bit of difference?
Maybe the parents should be rated for their maturity to raise children instead....
Y'can see where this is going though...
As has been pointed out; yet again a waste of public spending which has come to the same conclusions as the last report, and the last yada yada ad infinitum.
Doesn't every console now have parental controls built in? The 360 and PS3 certainly do, not too sure on Wii. And doesn't every game sold have a digitally encrypted rating on board? Presumably this is how consoles can tell "Oooh, 18 rated game in mah drivez DO NOT WANT"?
So, all it takes is for parents to activate the parental controls on their kiddies systems? Problem solved so to speak?
In conclusion then, parents simply need to be educated that consoles have this functionality, either at the point of sale (i.e. sales assistants themselves) or some sort of clearly defined supplement in the consoles packaging (not simply a few pages of the instruction manual dedicated to the topic). Now I know that's not a complete fix to the problem but I think it's a bit more pragmatic then another bloody logo on a box already covered in completely ignored logos as it is.
I have this horrible vision of the future where it's got to the stage that retailers are forced to arrange their shopfloors into "age-areas", with 18 rated games for example all being located in the once section of the shop. Behind double-glazed frosted glass windows. And red lights. And a bouncer. Ugh.
Wow, so much hate!
Can't believe how much hate there is for this report, surely by now we all know that MPs and people in power don't have any common sense (otherwise they wouldn't be MPs - ha!), they need things spelt out for them, and this is what the Byron report does.
Some people don't seem to have read TFA which says:
"On video games, Dr Byron recommends a range of high profile and *targeted efforts* to help *inform parents* what games are right for their children"
One of the problems is that while the current ratings system is voluntary, yet somehow legally enforceable, it’s confusing! I’m a parent, and a gamer and having different rating systems (or none at all) on different games is just backwards! It needs to be standardized, and it makes sense to mirror an existing system.
The report also recommends that computers are brought into communal areas of the house. I agree with this, we have five consoles (from various generations) most are setup in our dining room, and our Wii is setup on our main TV in the living room. There’s nowhere for my six year old to game without me or his mum being able to monitor what he’s up to. We also spent time educating him on which games he can and can’t play, and he respects and abides by the rules.
I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, but the whole thing is part of a bigger issue of kids doing as they please with no consequences. Be it at home, school, or out & about kids *know* that they can pretty much get away with anything, and some have enough lack of respect for others that they often do.
When my son is old enough, he’ll have his own PC and I’ll trust him to do the responsible thing, when it comes to “bad sites” (i.e. porn) I’ll teach him about it, not just lock him out. Like Mick said – “You can't, and shouldn't, protect them from everything otherwise they'll grow up totally unprepared for the world.” I think that sums it up nicely.
“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society” - Theodore Roosevelt
i was watching the TV this morning about the kid who was killed in a 'manuhuntesqe' manner. they were bitching about the game. BUT who bought it for their son? since it was his game that the nutter kid apparently played on.
this still doesnt take into effect that some people are just idiots/bad people. whatever you do some people will be still violent
im in favour of ratings else they will simply ban all 18 games 'just in case'
i sure as hell will monitor what games my kids play when i have some :)
how is putting a sticker on a game box gona help anyhting, the parents/old brothers/random person the kids pay are still going to go out and buy these games for them, theres much better things to be spending time and money on, like stopping the kids that arnt inside out of the way at night playing games but out on the streets getting drunk at like 13 etc?
You can download the full report, executive summary and children's version at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/byronreview/
Takes me back to the 80's - Simpler Times
Back in the 80's it was home video that was making all our kids into murderous little nutters - The result of which was the introduction of the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the classification of home video to prevent kiddies watching Evil Dead and such like (although that one was banned I think - but you get the idea).
Didn't work though, parents bought videos and let kiddies watch them. Cue media frenzy surrounding any psycho behaviour from Children blaming - the videos of course, not the parents that would be madness.
Now the same works for games, I worked in an electronics retailer when Grand Theft Auto 3 (or 2 whatever) was released rated 18. We obviously refused to sell it to 12 year olds who would then grab a parent and make them buy it for them.
Classification is useless if parents can't be bothered to actually pay attention to it. Yet time and time again parents allow children access to violent/disturbing/sexual content (be it film or games) safe in the knowledge that if little Timmy goes out and murders his playmates they can blame the film/game/TV show without anyone ever questioning why he was raised on a diet of Death Whores from Hell 3 for 12 hours each day.
As per usual I blame the parents. Oh and evil Bill.
Maybe we're looking at this wrong...
Byron is a specialist in treating "behaviorally challenged" children, who suddenly become much better after she's spent a few days teaching the parents how to control them.
Clearly, years of working with parents who can't control their kids has led her to the conclusion that parents just cannot be trusted. This isn't a knee-jerk "let's protect the children from the evil games industry" move, this is a "let's protect the children from their oblivious parents" move.
Try reading the report!
I'm astounded by some of the negative responses on here. I've just had a look at Chapter 6 ("Video Games: The Evidence") and it presents an excellent survey of the academic literature on the effects of video games. It is presented in layman's terms so her conclusions are clear even to a non-psychologist. There is virtually nothing there to support the Jack Thompsons and Keith Vazes of the world. Rather, she goes out of her way to expose some of the problems with the research which purports to show that video games cause violent behaviour. I really think that it is worth reading at least some of what she has written before commenting on here.
@ Childrens version
I note, with some glee, you list an "Executive summary"
Is this, perchance, a 'suitably' edited version, aimed at our 'decision makers' in what passes for a government?
computer games are evil.
computer games make kids evil
ban kids form computer games
Or maybe people just need to be better/more sensible parents.
Surely she must know its the parents
Shes on 'Three', every bloody day, telling rubbish parents that they are doing it wrong, and she's blaming the industry?
I partly agree with her, there should be a fine, but she clearly hasn't looked at any game packaging during the making of the report. There already is a classification system, and it has a cinema style rating, after all, it's done by the BBFC. If it's anyone's at fault, maybe she should watch an episode of her own programme.
It is clearly an education gap though. For some reason parents don't buy Hitman the movie on DVD for little Jonny (maybe because it's rubbish), but will go buy Hitman the game.
The Xbox360 (http://www.microsoft.com/protect/products/family/xbox360family.mspx) and PS3 (@scott green) have parental controls built in. If parent's arn't using them, then again, that is education. But if little Jonny really wants GTA IV for £50 and finds that his console won't play it, how long do you think those parental controls will last.
Of course when some kid does something stupid like shoot up the school, no one wants to blame distressed parent, but they do want a scape goat. And it looks like the pretty lady has latched on to the trailing tassles of that wagon.
I agree with your comments.
However one thing that is also overlooked is the "reality" factor. When most of us parents were playing games they were blocky and not very realistic. This meant that it was easy to tell computer game violence from real violence. With the improvements in graphics and gameplay the line between the "computer" world and the real world is becoming greyer and greyer. Kids no longer shoot blocky 2d monsters ... they now get to run around with a baseball bat smashing skulls in. This is why the parents need educating .... "it's only a game" doesn't wash no more because the distinction between game and reality is slowly being lost and the gamers of yesteryear don't realise this.
My daughter doesn't know that I check her history and chat logs and is slowly being taught about internet safety and what not to do. Hopefully I'll make a good job of it.
Again, the parents are the problem
We can have all the ratings systems in the world, but they're for nothing if the parents buy the games for their kids. A case in point: I was walking through the town centre the other day and saw a lad of around 11-12 years old with a copy of Clive Barker's Jericho. This is a VERY horrific game, and rightly deserves it's 18 Certificate. It was fairly obvious that his Dad had bought it for him, as 'It's only a game, innit?'
BBC does it again...
I've just seen a report on this on BBC News 24 where they trot out the old myth about 14 year old Stephan Pakeerah who was murdered by by Warren LeBlanc and blaming it on Manhunt, but they failed to point out that it was the 14 year old *VICTIM* who had the game, nor question *why* his parents had let him have it.
They also failed to point out that Police and Prosecution statements put the blame on it being a drugs related killing because obviously that's not as good as a "video games corrupt your children" scare story.
Facts? Who needs facts...??
Not sure about this
I've always said that I don't believe that video games will have long term effects on children, and have had many quite heavy arguments with my mother over the matter (and I mean since I turned 18, not before, although obviously that happened as well, as my parents were quite strict about 18 rated things, although games didn't fit into that because I was part of the Wolf3D/Doom/Quake generation), although I don't think that exposing kids to things at a young age are a good idea in general. I don't think they've got the same coping mechanisms, and on young children (I'm thinking < 12) it's quite obviously going to have some sort of effect on their developing brain.
Personally I think that we really need a legally enforced, single rating system that is well publicised. Parents don't know enough about games, what is in them, or why ratings are there. We need some sort of education where parents are actually shown what they are buying for the children, and let them know that it is just as illegal to give them that game as to buy them alcohol. I don't know that the problem is parents buying games in the first place, I think it's just a matter of parents don't seem interested in what their kids are doing. If they sat down and watched them playing for a while they might realise that there's something wrong giving them an 18 rated game.
Stop with the common sense please. You put a crimp in the day of the angry nutters who prefer to paint Dr Tanya Byron, MSc, PsychD, as nothing but a TV celebrity who knows less about developmental psychology than me and my mate Dave.
I welcome this
But while I can't see it making any difference to the amount of underage kids playing adult rated games, at least when the press go looking to blame games in the future, they will have to point fingers towards the pondlife parents first.
If I walk into a shop to look at games they all have U,PG,12,15,18 BBFC ratings on them. I thought that the BBFC rate games in the same way they rate films i.e. Manhunt 2 couldn't be released because the BBFC refused to give it a rating.
And yes - they ARE BBFC ratings, and yes, they are just as legally binding as the same ratings on movies (not allowed to be sold to persons under the marked age) so we've already got a working, legally binding, perfectly sensible system in place - unlike Italy for example.
The issue (as is actually pointed out by the report) is that parents buy these games for their kids... mind there's probably people out there who'll buy ciggies for their u18 offspring as well.
I continually wonder why a license isn't required to breed. Intelligence is an evolutionary dead end it seems.
Spies in our Midst
I'm thinking that ElReg may have been infiltrated and spies planted to seed the comment sections with pro(whatever) propaganda.
Some of the comments above are written too well to be coming from regular readers.
A not wholly bad thing
Much as I can't stand anything which treats the internet like centrally-governed television, Byron raises an interesting point regarding game purchasing.
Simplify the procedure for identifying the "SHIT PARENTING" identified by NB above: one rating standard, just like the BBFC, with penalties for both retailers and purchasers, that are painful and enforcible.
If little Kemal talks about how he plays "Manhunt 2" at home, bingo - shit parenting alert! Go go go social workers in a dawn raid - shoulda learned the power of the word "no", eh?
If Bob in HMV sells "Drillfucker 3" to a kid with no proof of age, bingo - Bob has no job.
Face facts, the complexities and vagaries of warezing games are harder to enforce, so put those further back in the queue, and let's concentrate on the things for which there's already a substantial legislative framework in place. If parents agree these games are so damaging to children's minds, then clearly the punishment for allowing your child to play them should be commensurate. Petard, anyone?
Then, this 34 year old male can play "Chisel Rape 4" because it'll be available to me on the shelf when I want it to be there, and the Daily Mail can't do a thing about it...
It's a mixture
Many differing factors on this one really.
Firstly, I have been playing computer games for nigh on 25 years now. I remember as a young'un playing on the Atari 2600. Pong, Space Invaders, and some game with "planes" and "tanks" in where you tried to destroy the opposition. All blocky, vector graphics agreed. Still playing games today, yes you notice the realism now. Playing the likes of Forza 2 and GT5 makes my mouth water, but it does not encourage me to rag my motor round the streets Fast and the Furious style! But even back when I had my Sega Master System with Shinobi, and Golden Axe, and Double Dragon (I could go on) did I ever think "Hmmm, I really must go out a beat the seven bells of **** out of someone". To be fair, people being idiots and ignorant in real life is more than enough incentive to want to dish a bit of pain out now and again, but obviously we don't do that, we know right from wrong.
Secondly, as has been mentioned, parents not wanting their kids around while they watch Jeremy Kyle, Eastenders, Corrie, whatever and so ship little Johnny off to his room, with the latest game he pester powered them into buying. "So long as he's not bothering us, he's doing alright". Their own parents never spent time with them as kids, so they in turn do not really know how to be a role model and parent to their kids. And guess what is going to happen to little Johnny when he hits 14 / 15 and becomes a dad to baby Shaniqua? He's not going to have the first clue how to be a responsible parent (whatever age he is) as he was never exposed to it himself. It's a continual cycle due to a lack of responsibility on behalf of the parents.
Not all parents who buy <insert favourite 18 / 16+ rated game here> for their kids are irresponsible as such, but I do agree that their own lack of knowledge about the core fundamentals of such a game leads them ignorantly into game shops to buy it for little Johnny because he nags. As was said above, if they sat there and watched their child play these adult rated games, you know within minutes a half responsible parent will do the right thing, take the flak from the child and get rid of the game. It's the "parents" who will more than likely sit with their child and play also, encouraging them to rob cars, run people over, bludgeon them to death with a hammer. These are the children at most risk of having a distorted sense of reality as they see their "role model" going "Yeah, get him, Do him over. Keep kicking him now he's down! That's how you do it!"
Heck, in an ironic sort of way, games like GTA, CoD4 etc allow me to vent my frustrations in a safe environment as I know the difference between reality and fantasy, and they allow me that avenue to get pent up rage out of my system on a computer sprite rather than losing the plot in real life (Falling Down with Mikey Douglas?).
Some parents need educating and you'll see them suddenly take more notice. They then will make the call if their child is mature enough to play a game rated higher than their age. Some parents will never care so long as it keeps the child happy and they are not being pestered. These are the future "issues" that will come back to bite us.
Paris, because she has probably never been told "No" by mummy and daddy in her life!
Sure, the parents are crap, and kids should be protected from the parents.
But how? When an adult buys a classification-18 game, does the checkout assistant have to say "Now you're not buying that for your children, are you" every time? What makes games different from videos and DVDs, or for that matter from cigarettes, alcohol, knives, glue and lighter fluid?
The AC comment further down suggesting that adults don't realise how realistic games are now really doesn't hold water. I'm 34, which means I was 18 when Doom hit the scene. There are plenty of parents my age, and they've got no excuse. Besides which, it only takes even a cursory glance at the screen to see what quality the graphics are today.
As has been said over and over, once there's a big "18" label slapped across the game, and vendors can only sell to over-18s, there really isn't much else you can do. The problem isn't so much informing parents as getting parents to give a crap about their children; it's merely a symptom of a deeper problem with their parenting, and changing the rules on computer games ain't going to fix it. Once-a-year mandatory parenting classes might be a plan, but what do you reckon the odds are of getting that past the government, given that there's not even enough money for playschools? Or past the bleeding hearts who reckon government shouldn't interfere in child-raising?
RE: M Brown
You wrote this pearl of wisdom: "Hopefully some adult can be held responsible if some apparent game related death happens. "
There is no Game related deaths, well beside the few unfortunate who starved to death or died of exhaustion. But even those are not game related they are stupidity related.
There is no game that causes people to die. Not yet anyway. People should be held accountable for their actions. If some kid gets a gun and shoots someone its not the gun manufacturers fault its the fault of whomever allowed the kid to get the Gun in the first place (Parent). I don't see how some people try to blame an entertainment medium for something a person did.
If some one is unstable enough to start shooting and driving people over if they played GTA then just maybe they should not be running around unsupervised. A rubber padded room might be in order.
And as the last thing who in the hell is she to presume to know whats the best for every kid.
For a censorship advocate Dr Byron always seems eager to show as much cleavage as she can. This confuses me.
have read chapter 6
And it seemed to me to be a lot more easy on the negitive views then the positve views...
Also having seen some mouthbreathing muppet parent override a game shop assitant who was trying his best to point out what ever version of GTA it was just was perhaps not the best for the at best 11 year old yapping at said dipshit parent...
I come heavly down "fucking stupid parent" syndrome
A quick read.
...the report itself is worth reading properly, she does talk a lot of sense. The slightly sensationalist nature of some of the recommendations misrepresents that whole. The stuff about media literacy, particularly, is spot on.
Also regarding Dr Tanya, I so, so, so, so would. And so would the rest of you. Come on, cleavage and a PhD - that's geek man heaven, right?
Computer games don't really affect us do they?
I mean, if computer games really had any effect on our behavioural patterns, then those of us who grew up playing pacman would spend our free time wandering around in some dark room, bobbing our head to monotonous repetitive music while popping pills all night...
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