Interviews// Tanya Byron: The Exit Interview, Part 2

Posted 7 Apr 2008 19:09 by
Dr. Tanya Byron
Dr. Tanya Byron
The Byron Review looking at children and violent video games is in. After a six month period of consultation and analysis, Dr. Tanya Byron has submitted her report and accompanying recommendations on the measures in place and what steps she feels should be taken to ensure children aren't exposed to inappropriate game content to the government.

I caught up with Dr Byron to discuss the findings and the reception they've been met with.

Below you'll find the second part of the interview, ranging over how games can be a positive influence on children, how Dr. Byron hopes to see the debate over children and violent games progress and why she's in danger of becoming a vigilante...

You can read the first part, here.

SPOnG: So, you've submitted your report on children and violent games. Do you think there would be any merit in a review of non-violent games?

Tanya Byron: Well, I did make a recommendation... There's a big piece in here that says I think the government needs to invest some research to look at the educational value of video games. I was really moved, Mark, because I had more kids respond to my call for evidence than anybody else put together. So, all parents, all teachers, all industry stakeholders, the charities, the law-enforcement, the policy makers, they all submitted to me... but even more kids submitted to me overall.

If you look at the report, I've got kids' artwork all the way through the report, pictures, netSmart, gamesmart, tips and advice. Because I thought, 'this is about games, this is about young people, we need to focus on what they're saying, as well.' Because we need to respect their opinions ? they understand these technologies and they've got things to say.

And, certainly, I had a lot of kids with disabilities, kids with learning difficulties or with other kinds of problems. I remember one young man who spent quite a lot of time communicating with my Review. He has Asperger's which is on the Autistic spectrum. For him, the real world ? the offline world is extremely challenging ? and the first time he contacted me, he e-mailed me, he said, 'Dr Byron, video games and the online world have literally saved my life.'

I spent more time talking to him and realised that for him, playing games has helped him make friends all around the world, playing games has helped him learn social skills that he finds very difficult to learn with face to face contact in the real world. And it's given him a sense of achievement. When he plays games in guilds he has a sense of being part of a team. He's respected for being part of that team and for the skill he has within that team.

Also, there's a lot of evidence that games produced for children, say with Autism ? there's a Thomas the Tank Engine game that has been very helpful for children with Autism in understanding emotion, because they have a problem with that in terms of emotion on people's faces. Kids with learning difficulties saying, 'I couldn't learn to read in the classroom, I found it really scary. But I can now read because of the games that I play.' Or, 'I learned how to map read because of the games I play', or, 'I'm not scared of numbers any more, because in the game I play I have to earn money and I have to exchange it for certain goods and now I understand how numbers work.

We've got to hear kids say this, and we've got to think, 'if we've got vulnerable children who are engaged with gaming in a way that's positive for them, then we have to look at that and we have to take that forward, because here are some of the really amazing opportunities that we can harness from the computer gaming world in a positive way for children and young people.'

So, it's shifting the focus. It's not all doom and gloom, it's not all about bad stuff. It's about what's good about this, and how can we understand that more.
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king skins 9 Apr 2008 13:07
she should have said something to the granddad!
zoydwheeler 9 Apr 2008 21:54
Nice interview Mark. Throws up lots more questions that still need answering, but that's the point of a good interview IMHO. ;)
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