The final recommendations from the Byron Review have been published in the UK, a study commissioned by the British Government into the effects of video games and the Internet on children. The study was led by child psychologist Tanya Byron (pictured) and publically backed by British prime minster Gordon Brown
As predicted by the UK media
, which has given significant coverage to the review today, the key findings call for a new legally enforced, cinema style classification system, making it illegal to sell games to children below the recommended age.
Currently all games in Britain use the voluntary pan-European PEGI ratings, with only games showing sex or "gross" violence to humans or animals being subject to mandatory classification by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), for the same style of age rating used for movies and other video content.
The review suggests lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, to be in line with film classification and to help make the system easier for parents to understand. Significant fines and even jail sentences are suggested for shops selling games to underage buyers.
"Clear and consistent" guidance for the industry on how games should be advertised is also called for, as well as renewed attempts by the games industry to increase parents understanding of age ratings and to improve parental controls for consoles and PCs.
The review also encourages parents not to allow children to play video games alone in their bedroom and where possible ensure all play takes place in full view of family members.
Some UK newspaper reports also suggest that violent video games will be given cigarette packet style warning stickers, although the review itself only makes a vague suggestion of additional "warnings on the packaging".
Dr Byron said: "The Internet and video games are now very much a part of growing up and offer unprecedented opportunities to learn, develop and have fun. However, with new opportunities come potential risks. My recommendations will help children and young people make the most of what all digital and interactive technologies can offer, while enabling them and their parents to navigate all these new media waters safely and with the knowledge that more is being done by government and the internet and video game industries to help and support them."
The review has already been welcomed by the UK government with secretary of state for children, schools and families Ed Balls commenting: "I welcome Dr Byron's focus on a shared culture of responsibility. Keeping children and young people safe from harm must be the priority and responsibility of us all. However, children also need to be able to learn, have new experiences and enjoy their childhoods. So we will help families strike the right balance between keeping children safe and allowing them the freedom they need by taking forward Dr Byron's recommendations".
Further information, including the full text of the review, can be found at the Department for children, schools and families website