Byron Report Released in U.K. – Ratings Will Change, Laws Will be Passed

Dr. Tanya Byron’s long-awaited review of the effects of video games and the Internet on children has been released in the U.K.

While much is being written about Byron’s report, the key points, as described by the Mirror, include:

-Giving video games a more “robust” movie-style age classification.

-Making it illegal for retailers to sell any video game to a child younger than the age rating on the game box. At present, only the most violent and sexually explicit games are regulated.

-Developing a new code of practice aimed at regulating social networking sites, such as Bebo and Facebook, including introducing standards on privacy and harmful content

-Undertaking a new publicity campaign for parents to understand the sort of digital material their children are accessing on the Internet and how they can block it.

-Introducing new laws banning Internet-assisted suicide.

-Creating a national council to implement the strategy.

The British government has reportedly confirmed that all of Byron’s recommendations will be implemented. For her part, Byron told BBC Radio:

In the same way you wouldn’t let your 11 to 12 year-old watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is an 18-rated film, you really shouldn’t be letting them play 18-rated video games.

The Guardian reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quick to support Byron’s recommendations:

If our children were leaving the house, or going to a swimming pool or going to play in the street, we would take all the care possible about their safety. Is there proper policing, is there proper safety?

When a child goes on to the computer and on to the internet or on to a video game we should be thinking in the same way. It’s really difficult for parents because we didn’t grow up in the computer age, many of us.

We’ve got to make it easier for parents and get the information to them in a more simple form. We’ve got to get the classification clearer so that people know 12-plus. When someone is trying to sell a game they’ve got to give the proper information.

Byron added:

I’m making some pretty tough recommendations to the prime minister, to the government, about the video game classification system and about the internet generally and how we can empower parents and teachers and all adults to help children be safe.

I’m asking the prime minister to change legislation so that from 12 upwards children or parents can’t buy games unless it’s for the right age of the child.

A widely-cited Times Online report, which carried the headline, Computer Games to Get Cigarette-Style Health Warnings seems to overstate the case a bit. While Byron does call for a revamped content rating system as well as ratings that appear on the front of game packaging, GP found no reference to “cigarette-style” warnings in her report.

Those who were rooting for either the PEGI or BBFC classification systems to be favored by Byron will be disappointed. As Next Generation reports, Byron recommends:

Reforming the classification system for rating videogames with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film. 

Lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, so that it is the same as film classification and easier for parents to understand.

Her report recommends a blending of PEGI and BBFC:

In the context of this Review, where my remit has been to consider the interests of children and young people I recommend a hybrid classification system in which:

– BBFC logos are on the front of all games (i.e. 18,15,12,PG and U).
– PEGI will continue to rate all 3+ and 7+ games and their equivalent logos (across all age ranges) will be on the back of all boxes.

GP: The Byron report will have far-reaching effects on the video game industry in the U.K. In addition, readers can expect that it will be closely studied by political figures, activists and industry types in the U.S.

UPDATE: PC World’s Matt Peckham has a rant about the “cigarette-style” warning labels…

WANT A COPY ? Click: Byron Report (report + supporting materials)

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