Interviews// Dr Tanya Byron - The Exit Interview

Posted 4 Apr 2008 18:22 by
Dr. Tanya Byron
Dr. Tanya Byron
SPOnG: When you were taking evidence, did you get a sense of where the balance lies in terms of how many adult games are getting into children's hands through retailers selling when they shouldn't and how many are going through parents?

Tanya Byron: It's difficult, because this is less research-based and more anecdotal. Based on what people are telling me, there's a very strong sense that parents are buying games for kids that are not for kids. One wonders why, because you don't necessarily see the same things with films. With films and DVDs people seem much more able to say, 'no, you can't watch that, it's an 18 and you're 10.' But, somehow, and I think it's something to do with (how) we've got this digital, technological divide ? kids know so much more than their parents. They're called video games, I think that's misleading for a lot of parents ? they think, 'oh, it's only a game'. Their kids are saying, 'you know what? It says a number on the box but that's a skill rating, not an age rating and I'm really good at this Mum, so please can I have it?' Then, 'Oh, of course, because you are a genius so of course you can have it' ? there's all that going on.

I think it's a real education piece. But, I also think for me that it's about writing about consoles and about safety settings on consoles, that parents should be able to set them up, but also that console manufacturers should look at making them much clearer and easier to set up, that there should be information on boxes, that the instructions explaining the family settings are there separate to the main manual so it's easily read and easily done.

So, for me, it's a combination of approaches that will enable parents to choose, on behalf of their younger children, what they should be watching and playing.

I'm trying to be sensible, balanced and proportionate. And, you know, when people panic - and there's a lot of panic, isn't there? A lot of shouting and table-banging ? actually, what people tend to lose sight of is the child, so what I've tried to do is keep the child at the centre of my thinking, look at the child development literature and say, 'how do we (understand) children (to) develop?'

Then look at the content of games and say 'how, against the developmental profile of children, can we say content is appropriate or inappropriate?' And then actually check that the classification system in itself is set up at the right level ? and I felt I needed to make changes, which I have. But, fundamentally, it's about empowering the end consumer, it's about parents and children understanding these issues and working in a proactive way to make sure that great games are accessed and inappropriate content isn't.

You can see Part Two of this interview here.
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