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Psychologist calls for movie-style ratings for games

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A government-ordered investigation into the potential risks of videogames and the internet to children has recommended that computer games be rated like movies. The review has also recommend the creation of a UK internet safety body.

Psychologist Dr Tanya Byron's 'Byron Review' has proposed a legally binding system of age ratings for games. She recommends that U, PG, 12, 15, 18 cinema labels be adopted alongside elements of the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system - the voluntary code followed by many game manufacturers.

PEGI uses age recommendations as well as specific warnings for violence, fear, bad language, drug references, sexual content, or gambling. Byron's also called for £5000 fines or six months in prison for retailers who sell games illegally.

Byron has also suggested that games consoles include parental controls to prevent children playing games not designed for their age group.

Children's internet use also came under scrutiny by Byron. She wants better protection for children and has suggested that a body be created to report to the government on internet use each year. Byron wants improved security and privacy practises from social networking sites, such as Facebook.

Byron claimed computers should be kept in shared spaces like the living room, rather than in bedrooms so parents can more easily monitor what kids are doing online.

No official link between videogames and physical violence has ever been proven. However, the Manhunt series has been criticised worldwide for excessive violence.

Earlier this month, Manhunt 2 finally won a UK 18 certificate from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), clearing the way for the game to go on UK sale.

The game's publisher and the BBFC had been fighting it out in the courts because the body felt the game was too violent, and that it could easily get into the hands of children or the vulnerable.

In the US several legal bigwigs have tried to pass laws for more legally binding videogame sales, such as the infamous House Bill 1423.

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