The Byron Review: Safer children in a digital world:
The Prime Minister asked me in 2008, to lead a review on the risks to children from exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. The review was published on 27 March 2008 and Government accepted all my recommendations.
In 2009 a progress report was requested and in March 2010 I delivered the follow up report "Do we have safer children in a digital world?
Summary of argument and recommendations in the Byron Review:
- the online world offers incredible opportunities and benefits alongside which (as in the 'offline 'world) there are risks;
- online content, contact and conduct can all at times be experienced as harmful or inappropriate;
- decisions about what is harmful and inappropriate (not including content, contact or conduct that is illegal or designed only for the 18+ market) are largely subjective as what is harmful/ inappropriate to one child and/ or in the opinion of their family may not be considered or experienced in the same way by another child and their family;
- children and young people (the 'digital natives') are more adept and savvy when it comes to the online space leaving some adults ('digital immigrants') feeling helpless and anxious - there is a digital generational divide and therefore children are often not being prepared for the online world;
- there is no one solution, no magic bullet - this issue is best managed in a number of ways including - industry having clear and transparent standards, using available technology for filtering, setting white/ black lists etc., family/ school discussion and acceptable use 'policies' set down - which the 'end consumer' (i.e. the child and their family) can tailor to meet their particular attitudes and needs;
In short, the review argued that in order to support and, as necessary, protect children online and when video gaming we must:
- Reduce Availability - Reduce the availability of harmful and inappropriate content, the prevalence of harmful and inappropriate contact and the conduciveness of platforms to harmful and inappropriate conduct;
- Restrict Access - Equip children and parents' to effectively minimize access to harmful and inappropriate content, avoid incidences of harmful and inappropriate contact and reduce harmful and inappropriate conduct;
- Increase Resilience - Equip children to deal with exposure to harmful and inappropriate content and contact, and equip parents' to help their children deal with these things and deal effectively with incidences of harmful and inappropriate conduct by their children.
UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS)
UKCCIS is a central part of the recommendations. It is a forum enabling Government and stakeholders - including industry, law enforcement, and the third sector - to come together and contribute jointly to the development and delivery of the Strategy for Child Internet Safety - the strategy will form part of the Child Internet Safety Summit which will be hosted by the Prime Minister.
The work of UKCCIS will drive the programme for ensuring children, young people and parents have the necessary skills and support to make the most from the internet and video games while minimising the potential risks. It will work with other Government programmes, such as Digital Britain UK, to ensure a coordinated response across Whitehall to maximising the enormous opportunities and innovation that new technology provides.
Video Games - the recommendations:
- Sustained, high profile and targeted efforts by industry to increase parents' understanding and use of age-ratings and controls on consoles.
- That the statutory requirement to age classify games be extended to include those receiving 12+ ratings.
- In the context of this Review, where my remit has been to consider the interests of children and young people I recommend a hybrid classification system in which: British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) logos are on the front of all games (i.e. 18, 15, 12, PG and U). Pan European Game Information (PEGI) will continue to rate all 3+ and 7+ games and their equivalent logos (across all age ranges) will be on the back of all boxes.
- There are other perspectives on the different possible approaches, and implementation of change will require full public consultation.
- That the retail industry works together to develop and implement a more consistent approach to the sale of video games and better in-store information for parents, children and young people.
- That there should be focused efforts to monitor enforcement of the statutory age ratings at the point of sale.
- That the advertising and video games industries work together to improve guidance on the appropriate targeting and content of video games adverts in line with age classifications.
- That 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 standards.
- That the BBFC and PEGI work together to develop a joint approach to rating online games and driving up safety standards for children and young people in the games, under the auspices of the UK Council for Child Internet safety.
- Government supports a dialogue between the games industry and the education sector to identify opportunities for the benefits of game-based learning to be evaluated in educational environments.