UK child internet safety plans under fire over game censors

The government yesterday backed an ambitious blueprint by the TV psychologist Dr Tanya Byron to improve child safety online, but immediately faced a backlash over plans to introduce cinema-style ratings for video games.The games industry criticised the plan to give the British Board of Film Classification a leading role in the licensing of games, amid concern that the censors would not be able to adapt as games were increasingly played and distributed on the web. Games publishers expect a large proportion of the games they produce to be downloaded over the internet in future, rather than sold in shops, and they believe the BBFC will not be able to handle the volume and complexity. old parenting will keep the online bogeymen at bay
The day after Barack Obama won in Iowa, I tried to engage my nine-year-old daughters in a conversation about what had the feel of a historic moment. “Oh yeah,” one replied. “I’ve seen him on Presidential Paintball.” I looked bemused, and she promptly Googled up a game in which players could adopt the persona of White House hopefuls, blasting away at each other with green goo.It was one of those moments that make you love the internet. Kids who would otherwise have no interest in US politics could now reel off the field of candidates as if it were the Arsenal team. But such moments are far outnumbered by the paralysing kind: the porn site stumbled on in a search for pets; the latest supposed web suicide pact; some fresh warning about grooming on social networking sites. Byron review – Internet angst: Guardian Leader
Leo XIII, on the whole a reforming pope, never quite came to terms with the bible in the vernacular. It offered, he felt, a subversive opportunity for people to make their own judgments. There is a little of the pope about the child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron, who yesterday proposed a national strategy for internet safety. Like the pope, who assumed sin, Dr Byron’s day job with dysfunctional families risks distorting her perception of the problem she is tackling. It is possible for paedophiles to groom children through chatrooms, but it is not likely. Some computer games rely on such extreme brutality that it is reasonable to doubt that it is good for children to play them. But Dr Byron, celebrated for her TV toddler-taming strategies, does not make a convincing case for the full panoply of controls she proposes – government commission, national strategy and parents’ panel – as a proportionate response to a problem that almost certainly relates more to the family than the internet. It is not the availability of the information that is the problem; it is the state of mind of the person who reads it.

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