Tanya Byron: parents are to blame for underage gaming, not publishers or retailers

PEGI ratings are "fundamentally about educating and empowering parents"

You might recall Professor Tanya Byron as the author of the Byron Review, a generally fair independent report on the use of videogames and the internet by children, sadly misrepresented by certain newspapers whose titles rhyme with "Waily Fail". She's also been on French & Saunders, but we'll let that slide for the moment. Videogames, people.

Byron's findings contributed to the decision to introduce the PEGI age classification system for videogames earlier this year, replacing older BBFC ratings. She's been chatting to the Metro about this, from whose transcript we do hereby extract the following convoluted but praiseworthy rant.


Responding to the paper's suggestion that parents are ultimately responsible for children playing adult-rated games, Tanya commented: "I completely and utterly agree with you, and actually when I did the review in 2008, I didn't see a cynical industry that was there to create games just to exploit and make money. The industry has always been very clear with me, in a very genuine way, that adult content is created for adults - it's not created for kids.

"And actually what people get hot under the collar about are the five per cent of games that are talked about endlessly and not the 95 per cent of games that are out there, that are amazing for children from an educational point of view and also for families. Families used to play board games together, but I really strongly want to encourage parents to game with their kids. I game with my kids and it's a really fun thing to do.

"There's complaints about the inactivity, but now we've got fantastic games that involve movement, there's a lot of evidence I've got from my report and also from charities such as the National Autistic Society, where we know that children with specific learning difficulties or neuro-developmental problems like autism the gaming world has transformed their lives in really positive ways.

"This has never been about putting the blame on the gaming industry," she concluded. "It's actually, I think, to have a very simple, streamlined system which the games industry is working really clearly with to make happen and being really responsible about letting people understand the content they're making and who it's for. But the gaming industry is fully supporting and enabling parents to get access to information wherever they can about these issues so fundamentally then it is all about the parents.

"And I completely agree with you: we cannot subcontract responsibility for how children play games to the industry, but I think now the industry has got a much clearer system what we see is an industry that's being absolutely transparent about what they're producing and how parents should be thinking about it when their kids are playing. And now it's fundamentally about educating and empowering parents because that's where the regulation really lies when it comes to children and gaming."

What do you think of our automatic image editing, by the way? I was going to replace it, but this seems appropriate - the shiny white teeth of Justice, poised to clamp down on the Arse of Bigotry.