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> Britain to overhaul video game ratings system
post Apr 2 2008, 03:49 PM
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Britain to overhaul video game ratings system
By Andrew Hough

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government plans to introduce a new guidance rating system for video games and a code of practice for social networking Web sites to help protect children.

The moves follow a six-month review commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and conducted by psychologist Dr Tanya Byron.

Her report, "Safer Children in a Digital World," is backed by both the Children, Schools and Families (CSF) and the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) departments.

Byron proposed:

* Video games should have a more "robust" movie-style age classification with clearer ratings. At the moment, games only get a mandatory review if they have sexual activity or gross violence.

* An overhaul of the way console games are advertised.

* Making it illegal for retailers to sell any video game to a child younger than the age rating on the game box.

* 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 UK Council for Child Internet Safety to help implement the strategy.

Byron said some parents did not understand the risks in the digital world.

Not watching what they see online, she told reporters, was akin to opening the front door and letting them play unsupervised.

"The digital world risks are similar to real world risks but can be enhanced by the anonymity and ubiquity that the online space brings," she added.

Industry groups and children's charities welcomed the review.

"I think this is a very healthy development," Claude Knights, the director of children's charity Kidscape, told Reuters. "All of these (recommendations) may lead to a much more uniform situation and better child safety.

"The safety of children is paramount but it is now up to the whole community, all of us, to ensure it happens."

Schools Minister Ed Balls said the government would implement all Byron's recommendations quickly.

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