Byron report calls for clearer game classification

Byron report calls for clearer game classification

Calls for BBFC ratings and Council for Child Internet Safety

Video and online games should be rated in a way that is easier for parents and children to understand and a council should be set up to deal with child internet safety, according to a UK Government report.

The report, Safer Children in a Digital World, stems from a review commissioned by the Government last September and headed by psychologist Dr Tanya Byron.

This review looked into the effects the internet and games have on children and has come up with a range of recommendations. These include classifying games for children aged 12 in the same way that films are rated, and the creation of a UK Council for Child Internet Safety.

Currently computer games are classified in two ways. The voluntary European rating system PEGI rates games as suitable for ages 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ or 18+ as well as using a number of icons to describe content such as sex or violence.

Some games are also rated by the British Board of Film Classification. Like films, these are given an age rating of 18, 15, 12, PG (Parental Guidance) and U (Universal).

Dr Byron pointed out that having both types of rating on a game box can be confusing for parents.

“The industry needs to work together to ensure that games have just one set of symbols on boxes. These should be the same as those used for films,” she said.

She said that the ratings should be legally binding and printed clearly and prominently on games so they can be understood by parents who are not computer-savvy.

Dr Byron also called on websites such as Facebook and Youtube to put a similar age warning in place on their home pages to show the age groups they are targeted at and to put in place measures that will block access by younger children.

“The industry needs to do its best to make it easier for parents and children to see what is being played and accessed, but the Government also needs to help”, Dr Byron said.

Her views were welcomed by schools secretary Ed Balls, who said the Government supported all the recommendations made in the “ground breaking report.”

This includes setting up a UK Council for Child Internet Safety, which will include representatives from across the Government, internet industry, children's charities and other key stakeholders such as children, young people and parent panels.

It will create a website where parents can find our more information about online safety and will run public information and awareness campaigns.

Mr Balls said the council had been strongly welcomed by the Prime Minister and would “hopefully” be up and running before the end of the year.

"We need to learn how to keep our children safe here as we would in the real world,” he said at the launch.

However not all Dr Byron’s recommendations will be funded by the Government.

Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, suggested that the games industry would have to fund changes to the classification system.

“We expect the games industry to take things forward themselves,” he said.