Posts tagged ‘Byron Review’

The Byron Review; Video Gaming Recommendations for Children

As we noted in our prior post, Dr. Tanya Byron, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, recently released an important set of E-safety recommendations, “Safer Children in a Digital World,” for children in the UK. Today we turn to her summary recommendations regarding video gaming.
Byron Review
Here again, the most compelling aspect of her research as well as her recommendations is the fact that she refrains from oversimplifying the matter. When it comes to the issue of video games, Byron calls upon the video game industry and parents to work collaboratively to ensure that children are provided access to games that are age-appropriate.Risk-Reward Nature of Technology
As was her methodology with Internet safety, Byron seeks a collaborative approach to children and the video game industry. In addition, she seeks to have assistance from the gaming industry to help restrict the access of games that are inappropriate for children. At the same time, she also calls on parents to do their part in the process.

In speaking about empowering children and keeping them safe, Byron turns to the following analogy. Noting that “children will be children – pushing boundaries and taking risks,” Byron offers, “at a public swimming pool we have gates, put up signs, have lifeguards and shallow ends, but we also teach children how to swim.”

Byron notes that technology offers extraordinary opportunities for children and young people as well as adults. As for video games, the researcher indicates that such games offer “a range of exciting interactive experiences for children.” At the same time, Byron specifies that some video games are in fact designed for adults.

Byron recognizes that the debate on ‘media effects’ and violent content in video games is divided. She also confirms the obvious, that Internet and gaming technology is moving so rapidly that it is not possible for research to keep up with the developments.


Amazon.com
What is noteworthy about Byron’s work is she does head directly to the gray areas, the risks of potentially harmful or inappropriate content, that could have negative impacts on children. As we noted in our post about Drs. Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson and their research for Grand Theft Childhood, Byron is not ready to take a cause and effect position regarding video game play and antisocial behaviors in children. Byron states, “Overall, I have found that a search for direct cause and effect in this area is often too simplistic.”

At the same time the researcher does not give a free pass on the topic, stating that it does “not mean that the risks do not exist.” Byron then moves correctly to another key element, that we must use our understanding of child development to “inform an approach that is based on the ‘probability of risk’ in different circumstances.”

What is so remarkable about Byron’s review is that she recognizes the sheer complexity of this issue. “We need to take into account children’s individual strengths and vulnerabilities, because the factors that can discriminate a ‘beneficial’ from a ‘harmful’ experience online and in video games will often be individual factors in the child. The very same content can be useful to a child at a certain point in their life and development and may be equally damaging to another child.”

In addition, Byron notes, “Very few people are genuinely addicted to video games but lots of time spent playing can result in missed opportunities for other forms of development and socialization.” In other words, concerns must develop when these gaming technologies negatively impact children at the expense of other activities and family interaction.

Byron does list some of the prevailing concerns regarding video game play. She notes, “There is some evidence of short term aggression from playing violent video games but no studies of whether this leads to long term effects.” She also states, “There is a correlation between playing violent games and aggressive behavior, but this is not evidence that one causes the other.”

Byron ReviewHer entire approach centers upon age appropriate gaming and reveals yet another critical element. “Games are more likely to affect perceptions and expectations of the real world amongst younger children because of their less developed ability to distinguish between fact and fiction (due to the immaturity of the frontal cortex).”

As for the interactive nature of games, Byron states the interactive nature may “also have a more profound effect than some other media, again especially amongst younger children (e.g. up to around 12 years old) who tend to use narratives to develop their values and ideas and who learn through ‘doing’.”

At the same time, Byron is not ready to castigate video games or refer to them as the source of all that is not well during adolescence. States Bryon, “These games offer new opportunities for social interaction between children and there are a number of potential benefits for children and young people from playing video games, including cognitive and educational gains and simply having fun. Interestingly the evidence to prove these benefits can be as contested as the evidence of negative effects.”

Ensuring Age Appropriate Gaming Opportunities
Byron calls for targeted efforts from the gaming industry to increase parental understanding of age-ratings and the available controls on gaming consoles. Byron recommends a new, hybrid classification system for games. She seeks to have the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Pan European Game Information, under the auspices of the UK Council for Child Internet safety, “work together to develop a joint approach to rating online games and driving up safety standards for children and young people.” She proposes that the new combined BBFC and PEGI logo be prominently placed on the front of all games (R18, 18,15,12,PG and U) with industry equivalent logos across all age ranges placed on the back of all boxes (ratings regarding violence, language, sexual activity, drugs activity, etc.).

Byron also seeks to have greater efforts to enforce age ratings at points of sale to ensure that children have access only to age appropriate materials. Byron suggests that games with ‘12′ ratings and up carry legal requirements that such games cannot be sold to someone under the required age. At the same time, Byron calls on both the video game and advertising industries to comply with age-appropriate message targeting that matches the video game age classifications.

I Stock PhotoIn addition, Byron wants to see “console manufacturers work together to raise standards in parental controls on consoles, delivering clear and easy to use prompts and better information for parents on where console controls meet agreed upon standards.”

Parents Must Also Parent
The researcher notes that even concerned parents sometimes still buy adult games for their children. The rationale? “Either for a ‘peaceful life’ or because it is ‘only a game’.”

Byron notes that parents must be aware of the fact that some games are suitable only for adults. She writes of how many children she came across that had been allowed to play age 18+ video games despite the fact that some children were forbidden from watching films with that rating.

She further notes that parents must be educated about the parental controls available on game consoles. If the gaming industry is expected to produce consoles that provide specific controls regarding time of play, game ratings, et al, then parents must learn to engage the technology and enforce the use of that technology.

Lastly, there is no substitute for parental responsibility especially with respect to decision-making. We noted earlier Byron’s prophetic words, the “need to take into account children’s individual strengths and vulnerabilities. The very same content can be useful to a child at a certain point in their life and development and may be equally damaging to another child.”

Recognizing the differences in children is difficult. But ultimately that recognition will have to be the responsibility of parents, not the gaming industry.

Author: Tom Hanson, OpenEducation Blog, 2nd April 2008

Article available here.

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April 6, 2008 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

The Byron Review; E-Safety Internet Recommendations for Children

Across the pond, Dr. Tanya Byron, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, recently released an important set of E-safety recommendations for children. Her report, “Safer Children in a Digital World,” was commissioned by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007 in response to growing concerns about the dangers of the Internet.

Ms. Byron’s recommendations appear, dare we say it, “spot on.” She calls on all parties; the tech industry, government agencies (education, legal), and most importantly, parents and families, to work collaboratively on the issue of E-safety.

Byron ReviewPerhaps the most compelling aspect of her research as well as her recommendations is her sophisticated and global approach to the issue. Noting the inherent risk/reward nature of both the Internet and video gaming, Byron properly refrains from oversimplifying the matter.

Today we begin with a review of her research and the recommendations she makes regarding Internet safety. In a follow-up post, we will take a look at her research regarding video games.

Calls Parents To Task
In her report, Byron certainly is not afraid of upsetting parents, calling to attention the fact that many parents simply are not doing due diligence in regards to E-safety. “Many parents seem to believe that when their child is online it is similar to them watching television,” states Byron. “In fact it is more like opening the front door and letting your child go outside to play unsupervised.”

At the same time, the clinical psychologist recognizes the need for children to take risks, that it is an important aspect of their development as young people. One key aspect “of today’s risk-averse culture” notes Byron is that parents are “more inclined to keep children ‘indoors’ despite their developmental needs to socialize and take risks.”

But with a clear understanding of the typical behavior of youngsters the researcher states, “Children will be children – pushing boundaries and taking risks. As we increasingly keep our children at home because of fears for their safety outside” our children will tend to “play out their developmental drives to socialize” with the Internet and “take risks in the digital world.”

Byron ReviewAs with the recent Grand Theft Childhood study, Byron notes the complexities parents face with both the Internet and the current gaming culture. “Findings from the evidence show that the potential risks online are closely correlated with potential benefits.” Therefore, Byron strongly suggests a collaborative effort to minimize risks without removing the potential benefits of online access.

What Can Be Done to Increase E-Safety
According to Byron, “Everyone has a role to play in empowering children to stay safe while they enjoy these new technologies, just as it is everyone’s responsibility to keep children safe in the non-digital world. This new culture of responsibility spans parents, children and young people supported by Government, industry and the public.”

In regards to the Internet, Byron proposes a three prong approach to improve child safety when online. The three specific areas seek first to reduce the availability of improper materials, second, restrict access to such materials, and third, increase the resilience of children to harmful and inappropriate online material.

The first area could prove more controversial as it in essence creates possible regulations though Byron seeks to have these regulations come in the form of voluntary codes of practice for the industry. In this arena, Byron seeks a reduction in availability of harmful and inappropriate material “in the most popular part of the internet.” Byron recommends that search providers such as Google and Yahoo incorporate a ’safe search’ button that is prominently displayed on the search engine page. In addition, users should have the option of a “lock button” to ensure safe search options. Along with the button, Byron recommends that every search engine offer clear links “to child safety information and safe search settings on the front page of their website.”

In addition to seeking assistance from the search engine giants, Byron recommends that all home computers sold in the UK be equipped with standard parental control software specifically designed with clear prompts and explanations to help engage the parental control options. At the same time, Byron adds that all Internet Service Providers should prominently offer parental control options during the set up of any Internet connection.

From there, Byron turns to the appropriate education of parents and all adults who work with children. The notion is one of education as her recommended focus is on raising the “knowledge, skills and understanding around e-safety of children, parents and other responsible adults.” Essentially, Byron properly notes that parents also have a key role to play in managing a child’s proper Internet usage.

DFES.GOVIn her research, the consultant often found that higher Internet skill levels in children gave these youngsters greater confidence regarding Internet use. Yet, many of those same youngsters did not have either the maturity or have sufficient awareness to ensure they are actually safe online. Byron throws this issue into the lap of parents stating, “Parents either underestimate or do not realize how often children and young people come across potentially harmful and inappropriate material on the internet and are often unsure about what they would do about it.” For Byron, it is time parents became fully aware of the risks, learn what steps they should take to ensure greater E-safety, and then subsequently implement those steps.

Next Byron turns to schools and other child service providers to play a key role in helping children and their parents stay safe online. The consultant indicates that schools should deliver e-safety through the standard school curriculum. Byron indicates it is essential that children learn how to protect themselves (distributing private information, giving out contact details online, etc.). Here she seeks to build children’s resilience to any material to which they may be exposed. Youngsters need to have both the confidence and the skills to ensure their own online safety.

Bionic teachingIn regards to these extensive education programs, Byron refers to an “authoritative ‘one stop shop’ for child internet safety” based on extensive research regarding what different groups of users want.

Conclusion
In regards to E-safety on the Internet, Byron provides a compelling case for a collaborative approach to protecting children. The writer properly notes that “restricting children’s access to harmful and inappropriate material is not just a question of what industry can do to protect children.”

Such E-safety is the responsibility of parents, teachers, government officials and the technology industry collectively. Only when these groups seek to work in concert will we be able to truly protect our most vulnerable assets, our children.

Internet safety photo by Bionic teaching.

Author: Tom Hanson, OpenEducation Blog, 31st March 2008

[More from this author soon.]

Article available here.

April 4, 2008 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

Plaudits and concern over Byron

The Byron Review

The Byron Review aims to improve the ratings system

The games industry has welcomed the recommendations of the Byron Review but concerns have been raised that ratings still need to be future proofed.

Dr Tanya Byron has recommended that the role of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) be expanded.

BBFC director David Cooke said the body was well placed to deal with task of rating all games for ages 12 plus.

But leading industry figures have said the self-regulatory system Pegi should have been given more emphasis.

Pegi is a pan-European self-regulatory system used by developers and publishers.

There has also been concern expressed about how the online and offline gaming ratings will mesh.

Dr Byron has said that Pegi should classify online games but many titles now have both an online and offline component.

“Our key concern is that we really want a future proofed system,” said Paul Jackson, director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association. “As our industry is going online so rapidly, it’s critical for us that the system works for on the shelf and online.”

Author: Darren Waters, Technology editor, BBC News, 27th March 2008

Full article available here.

March 31, 2008 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Game ratings under more scrutiny

Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 will be released with an 18 certificate

Game ratings are under increased scrutiny following the decision to give Manhunt 2 an 18 certificate in the UK.

The game was approved for release after a nine-month battle between developers Rockstar and the the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

Its release comes as the UK games industry awaits the Byron Review into the impact of technology on children.

A Private Members Bill proposing more government oversight of the BBFC was tabled last month but was talked out.

Author: Darren Waters, Technology editor, BBC News websit, 18th March 2008

Full article available here.

March 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment


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The purpose of this blog is to provide insight into the impact of computer games and pop culture, and effective ways of incorporating the positive surplus into learning experiences.

Please feel free to add comments and email me with any queries. I am also interested in relevant project collaboration.

Name: Alexandra Matthews
Location: UK

Email: info@gamingandlearning.co.uk / alex@gamingandlearning.co.uk

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