Friday, 30 March 2012

Playing it safe

This month the leading industry publication, Toy News, published new research on gaming.  They found that half of children aged 8-13 have played games regarded as too mature for them; 30% of 8-13 years-old have played a game from the 18-rated Modern Warfare series.

These underage gamers aren’t being covert in their gaming; most is taking place with the parent’s knowledge, as 80% of Modern Warfare players claim to have played the game in their own home.

This will come as no surprise to the nation’s teachers.  The annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers takes place next week and the members of the union are to debate a resolution calling for tougher legislation with regard to video games.  The teachers have expressed concern that some parents are ignoring age restrictions and allowing children to play potentially harmful computer games.

The head of the union described some games as ‘very violent’ which could have an effect on ‘tender young minds of children and young people’.  She also raised concerns about the amount of time children spent playing such games.

The union are proposing to commission research which they will present to government with a call for more stringent legislation on computer games. 

The Toy News research found that although they’re playing games deemed unsuitable for their age group, 97% of children and 98% of parents have seen game ratings on boxes.  20% thought they were there to suggest what age of child may enjoy the game whilst 5% believed it was a difficulty rating. The numbers were marginally higher when the parents were asked the same questions.

The situation becomes even more complicated when you consider that presently only games supplied in a physical format are required by law to display an age rating.  Games published online, played through internet browsers and mobile phone apps are not subject to a mandatory age rating system but are regulated by voluntary industry codes.

All games consoles have parental control options which have the ability to block the playing of age inappropriate games and films, restrict access to online features and limit play time.  However research published by Ofcom last year found that only about 15% of parents have set these controls; many parents don’t know control option exist or are unsure how to go about setting them.

As a mother of young children myself I can testify to parents’ bewilderment when faced with technology which moves faster than I keep up.  There is clearly a need to educate parents in this regard and I’m delighted that our new charity, The Children and Families Media Education Trust, will be doing just that.  Watch this space for further information….

Vivienne Pattison, Director

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