Professor Tanya Byron was responsible for the Byron Review, a level headed, independent report of video game and internet usage by children. Conducted in 2008 it found that parents were ultimately responsible for controlling what games their children played, as the age limits were clearly stated on the product and the reasons for that limit were clear.
This Byron Review was instrumental in the decision to legalize the PEGI rating in the UK that replaced the BBFC system earlier this year. Before PEGI acted as a guideline to parents, while the BBFC was legally enforced, whereas now as of Monday, July 30 “it became illegal for any retailer to sell a video game with a PEGI age rating of 12, 16 or 18 to someone below that age.” The move to one unified system made it even clearer to parents what these restrictions were and why they were in place. Byron explained saying
“we’ve got one ratings system with very clear logos, with very clear symbols, with very clear content descriptors.”
“They want something that’s clear, that does what it says on the box, literally, but it also gives them additional information so they can make decisions around what their kids are interacting with and what kind of content is in the games that they’re children are playing.”
In addition to taking note of what their children were playing, Byron actively encouraged parents to join in and play with their kids. She champions the fact that games are both educational and helpful in the motor skills of the child. She even advocated them as a tool that has greatly improved the lives of children with “specific learning difficulties or neurodevelopmental problems like autism”. Here’s a great article about gaming helping someone cope with Asperger’s Syndrome.
She states very clearly:
“This has never been about putting the blame on the gaming industry. It’s actually, I think, to have a very simple, streamlined system which the games industry is working really clearly with to make happen and being really responsible about letting people understand the content they’re making and who it’s for. But the gaming industry is full supporting and enabling parents to get access to information wherever they can about these issues so fundamentally then it is all about the parents.”
So there you have it, it is your responsibility as a parent to know what kind of games your child is playing and ultimately it is your judgement call as to whether that is suitable. The games industry has done everything in it’s power to restrict access of adult oriented games to an adult audience. There are clear guidelines when purchasing, a lot of parental controls on consoles to monitor time spent on the console or online access and at the end of the day, the best way to understand what your child is experiencing is to try it yourself!