UK gov't report calls for redundant ratings systems for software

A report released today by the British Prime Minister's office entitled "Safer Children in a Digital World," calls for reform not only by policy makers, but also schools, advertisers, parents, and "the industry."

The 215-page report by psychologist Dr. Tanya Byron, entitled "Safer Children in a Digital World," calls for reform not only by policy makers, but also schools, advertisers, parents, and "the industry."

It proposes ways in which these groups can address and manage the potential risks children face while using the Internet and playing video games. It stresses the similarities between caring for children in the offline and online worlds, and how potential risks will never be fully eliminated in either. And it suggests measures taken to protect children must be pragmatic.

One such measure calls for the creation of a council on child Internet safety which would be established by, and report to, the Prime Minister. The council would be responsible for developing better regulations for "that industry" --referring the IT industry -- and better information for the government, law enforcement, school, and children's service sectors on the risks to, and safety measures for, children.

The topic of an improved video game ratings system also constitutes several chapters of the report. It prominently notes the lack of a causal link between aggressive behavior and violent video game play, but still addresses the correlational evidence frequently brought up critics. Several updated approaches to video game retailing are covered.

One of these is the recommendation of a hybrid classification system in which BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) logos are on the front of all games (18, 15, 12, PG, U), and the PEGI (Pan-European Game Information System) continues to rate all 3+ and 7+ games and their equivalent logos on the back of all boxes.

The suggestion to put a rating on both sides of the box from two separate governing bodies -- one of which currently only rates about 4% of games, the other which is a voluntary classification system -- is unlikely to quell whom the report calls "a vocal minority" of those seeking not more ratings, but stricter ones.

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