Interviews// Dr Tanya Byron - The Exit Interview

Posted 4 Apr 2008 18:22 by
Dr. Tanya Byron
Dr. Tanya Byron
Back in September last year it was announced that the government would be launching an independent review of the effects of violent video games and inappropriate web content on children. It looked suspiciously like a cynical attempt to grab some positive mainstream press by jumping on a populist bandwagon. It also looked as if the UK government was looking to start censoring video games with more vigour.

The industry, gamers and the games press became defensive. Then it was announced that a TV psychologist of all people - and, gasp, a woman - would be heading up the report.

The above-mentioned parties became defensive, sceptical and not a little bit patronising. After all, what do TV psychologists and, gasp, women know of the video games world?

Fast forward seven months and the findings of the review, which was conducted by Doctor Tanya Byron, have been published in the report 'Safer Children in the Digital World'.

For the the most part, the aforementioned parties have now become adoring, effusive (some might say, rather smitten) fans of Dr Byron; as well as being converts to the fact that third-party research doesn't have to decry video gaming.

This probably says a great deal about the nature of the UK video games environment, but that's not the issue right now.

The report appears well-focused (remember, it did not concentrate on video games); well researched and even handed.

Among the recommendations are the suggestion of a broader remit for the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and Pan European Games Information (PEGI). Also recommended is an industry/government partnership on educating the consumer (parents, carers and children) on the nature of the games they are buying . You can read SPOnG's coverage here.

With the dust having settled somewhat, I sat down with Doctor Byron for a discussion about her findings and their reception. Below you'll find part one of the interview. Check back for part two soon.

SPOnG:Thanks for speaking with me. How do you feel about the reaction to the report so far?

Tanya Byron: Well, I was amazed on the day the government said 'yes' to everything. That was quite a big thing. And then I felt that the media reporting has actually been really balanced and very fair.

I think there have been some people who have raised concerns and issues, as I would have expected because it's such a vast area. I never expected that my recommendations would please everybody. But, generally, there seems to have been a really positive and warm reception not only for my recommendations. I think people have appreciated the way I've done the Review; the process, how transparent I've been and how much I've worked with the industry.

In fact, I was at ELSPA this morning talking to a number of people in the industry. It was a robust discussion, but it felt very respectful. Certainly, from my point of view, one of the things the video games industry has said, which I've really appreciated, is how they feel I've been a friend to the industry. That I've been very positive about the industry. I've positioned the industry in quite a different way to how you are normally positioned in the media and the minds of the public.

I've been at pains to say I think this is a responsible industry that doesn't create adult content for children. It creates adult content for adults; that adults have the right to play adult games because they are adult. That we just need to robustly make sure that we are clear on what games children should be playing at different ages and stages. We need to enable parents to understand that, so that, fundamentally, they can make those decisions on behalf of and with their children.
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