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UK gov publishes 'kids and videogames' action plan

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The Byron Review, it seems, was just the beginning. The UK government has unveiled a comprehensive action plan designed to develop ways of making videogames and the internet safer for children.

The action plan has six key objectives: four concerning child safety online and two regarding the impact of videogames on young gamers.

On the videogame side of things, the government plans to launch a consultation to consider “all necessary evidence around current and future video games classification”. Given the wording of the announcement, the government seems to have decided that the current videogame classification system does indeed require reform.

The government said it also plans to work with industry to improve the information and support given to parents on videogames. This could see the current BBFC rating system widened and the Pan European Game Information (Pegi) labelling adopted alongside it.

Pegi is a voluntary system currently used by many game manufacturers. It uses icons to identify specific types of content, for example, a spider signifies scary content. A syringe indicates drug use.

On its approach to internet safety, the government plans to create a UK Council for Child Internet Safety to monitor the ‘kids online’ issue and report back to MPs.

A £9m investment programme will also be launched to “raise awareness of e-safety issues among children, young people, parents and other adults”. Hopefully, the programme won’t just create colourful cartoon characters spouting wise words, such as “Sammy the Surfer says: Never give out personal information in chatrooms.”

In the US, the New York State Senate this week voted in favour of legislation to create a governmental advisory council to examine the possible impact of violent videogames on society. The legislation won’t become law until 2010, provided the state’s governor signs it into the statute books.

Part of the legislation would require consoles sold in the state to be equipped with parental controls, something which the Byron Review also recommended. It would also grant the 16-member council the powers to take charge, locally at least, of the US’ existing Pegi-like ESRB (Entertainment Software Review Board) videogame rating system.

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