Call For Better Child Protection From Gaming Firms

24 March 2015, 11:51 | Updated: 24 March 2015, 12:01

A new report by Northamptonshire's Police Commissioner is asking the Gaming industry to play a more pro-active role in helping parents protect their children from disturbing content.

The new report shows primary school children as young as 5, deeply affected by graphic images.

Video games that ask players to participate in extreme acts of violence such as massacring civilians and torturing people should be labelled ‘AO’ (Adult Only) to warn parents they are not suitable for children.

The proposal for a new health warning on video games comes after a major new report into online safety which revealed that one in four – or 1,077 - primary school age children have seen something online that has upset them, with the most common cause being sexual or violent content contained within video games. Five-year-olds are particularly affected by graphic images with 42% saying they have seen something that has affected them.
While an 18 + certificate already exists warning parents and children of explicit content, there have been a number of recent controversies surrounding the release of high profile video games.  Grand Theft Auto V, one of the most expensive computer games ever made, has caused outrage for including a torture scene in which the player must pull teeth and electrocute an unarmed man. 

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players are asked if they wish to play a proactive part in an airport civilian massacre. The report found that 26% of children had accessed games that they knew they were underage for with over one in 10 children aged 11 saying they had downloaded Call of Duty. 
The report also suggests the video games industry provides a parental lock as standard to help parents protect their children from extremely violent and explicit images. If the industry fails to take greater responsibility, then the Government should consider banning certain games altogether.
Adam Simmonds, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, said:

"Controversy creates cash. However, today’s report shows that children as young as five are being subject to graphic scenes while playing video games that have left them feeling extremely upset.  Many parents might not be fully aware that these games contain such disturbing scenes. It is time for the industry to play a more proactive role in protecting young minds.”
A new Adult Only rating alongside parental locks on consoles will better support parents in safeguarding their children. If companies fail to do this, games involving extreme violence or sexual content should be banned altogether."
The Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission conducted online surveys and held workshops for 13,000 parents and children aged 5-18 across Northamptonshire with the aim of understanding the online safety issues, perceptions and experiences of children and young people.
The report found:
•         One in four primary school-age children have seen something online that has upset them. This is much higher for five-year-olds (42 per cent) falling to one in five children aged eight to eleven.
•         Online gaming is the most popular activity (84 per cent) for primary school-age children while YouTube (87%) is the main reason why young people of secondary school age are accessing the internet
•         30 per cent of children and young people – 1782 - are viewing material online for which they are under-age, most commonly accessing games, music and television programmes.
•         A quarter of 11-15 year olds and nearly half of 16-18 year olds have talked to people they have never met in person online.
•         30 per cent of children and young people are viewing material online for which they are under-age, most commonly accessing games, music and television programmes.
•         One in 10 11-15 year olds have been asked to send explicit images. The figure rises to one in four 16-18 year olds.
•         One in four 11-15 year olds and four in 10 16-18 year olds have sent inappropriate images or videos of themselves to people they know.
•         Nine out of 10 children do not want any more advice on online security. Yet a third of parents would like to know more about online safety and want their children to receive more education in the area.

Mr Simmonds added:
"Online safety must now be given the same priority as road safety. We should welcome Government commitments to increase education on online safety in schools.
However, our research shows that early intervention is needed to help educate primary schools children on the dangers and risks of accessing the internet. Teachers should be given all the help they need to achieve this."