Dr. Tanya Byron, clinical psychologist and author of an independent report published March 20 ("Safer Children in a Digital World") is on something of a mission to help kids be safer from violent video games. At first, I was harshly opposed, but she does kind of sum it up nicely with this:
“A useful way for us all to think about this is to look at how we protect children in places of benefit and risk in the real (offline) world: public swimming pools. Here there are safety signs and information; shallow as well as deep ends; swimming aids and lifeguards; doors, locks and alarms. However children will sometimes take risks and jump into waters too deep for them or want to climb walls and get through locked doors – therefore we also teach them how to swim. We must adopt the same combination of approaches in order to enable our children and young people to navigate these exciting digital waters while supporting and empowering them to do so safely.”
So, to me, that makes sense. I mean, I've seen ten year-olds before playing San Andreas and I just don't think that's cool, so something somewhere should be in place. But should it be left to governments? Byron has garnered lots of support at that level in the UK, and the US is examining her ideas closely as well. What does that say about the state of parenthood today?
Anyway, the proposals she's put out there go something like this:
• Adopting the same classification system as film.
• Improved clarity on game content, for parents and in general.
• Improved parental controls.
• The creation of a UK Council for Child Internet Safety, established by and reporting to the Prime Minister.
• More transparency.
• Begin public information and awareness campaign, while also creating a 'one stop shop' for child internet safety.
So that's more or less it. First, the film rating system I pretty well agree with. Personally I think the current system is great (its methodology could use improvement, but the ratings themselves are fine). But you know, parents can be so busy and casual with these things, I suppose it couldn't hurt to accomodate somewhat by unifying the systems. Improved clarity could be helpful, and parental controls as well. Yeah. I believe the PS2 had parental controls for movies, why not games? This could be useful for all systems.
Now, the creation of an entire council seems to be going a bit far. All I'm asking is increased awareness and a basic set of tools to help parents raise their kids better. Do we really need a council? I mean, this is a government council, it ain't small-time stuff. I just think there's a point where you have to let parents be parents and stop trying to infiltrate and control every facet of society because you have an opinion on something. No single trailer-home parent (sorry for the stereotype, time is a factor) is going to suddenly care about what her spawn are playing simply because someone formed a council. Ooooh, a council, I'd better start actually raising my kids, a council has been formed, gentlemen!
Transparency, yes, always. Campaign/one stop shop! Yes, yes! These are all great things. The one stop shop (a website, presumably) is absolute common sense, and should've been optional ages ago. The site could include several parental control programs and whatnot, perhaps ones that could be transferred to consoles (they've all got hard drives these days, I don't see why not). Honestly, I don't see how any of this could be bad, it would just make things easier for parents and give the less mindful ones easier reason to start being so.
One thing I have noticed in the past few years is that some shops, even the ones not game-exclusive, don't sell M rated games to minors (ID is a requirement). Things used to be a lot more loose, and in a way that's cool, but in another way, imagine yourself as a parent. Would you want your kid buying the new GTA? Or going over to his/her friend's house and playing it? Kids are so impressionable; you leave them to those kind of virtual experiences at such a young age and I think it can have a negative effect on them. And this is me talking - some of you know already my feelings on freedom in the game industry, violence in games/society, etc. I'm fully behind the freedom, and think the violence thing is generally silly, but I also believe in the freedom of all people (it's an ideal I know), so, I don't want eight year-olds playing whatever violent game and then going out and comitting acts of violence, whatever they are (I can speak from experience, I watched Power Rangers and beat the crap out of people as a child, I was a maniac), because that infringes on the rights of other people.
Well, that was quite a mouthful. Now, if interested, you can read the interview Next Gen did with Dr. Byron here, and more about her proposals through the source.