The Bailey Review highlighted parents’ wish to have easy access to information about how the commercial world interacts with their children and easy ways to complain when they see something they don’t like.

Video games can cause concern and many parents want guidance about suitability of game content.

To-day the rating system for video games in the UK has become both simpler and more stringent.

Two points to note:

  1. PEGI (Pan European Game Information) is now the sole age rating system
    used in the UK for video games.
  2. It is illegal for a retailer to sell a video  game to a child below the age stated on the game.

This makes things simpler and more reassuring for parents  and is really good news.

The PEGI site is worth a visit as it has good information about  the rating system and how it is administered (by VSR – Video Standards Council and  also links to good independent sites such as CEOP  It offers parents the opportunity to give positive feedback and also to complain.

Parents can also get information about how all children’s  media are regulated by going to  Parentport which was set up in response  to the Bailey Review  BUT Parent port need to update the site as it  doesn’t include the new information about video games yet!

ukie (The Association  for UK Interactive Entertainment) is also promoting the news about PEGI -which  is great.

Parents should, however, perhaps take their “askaboutgames”  site and  accompanying “Control.Collaborate.Create” advertising campaign with a small  pinch of salt.  ukie is the trade  association for the interactive games industry and so, of course, exists to  promote its members interests – ie sell more video games.  So it’s not surprising that the information  is rather biased with sweeping claims made about the benefits of video games for families with no evidence to back them up.

The CEO states in her press release that the site is there  to “encourage people to have honest and open conversations about games” yet  there don’t seem to be any real conversations going on with real parents nor  any signposting to where parents can feedback or complain about games or the  regulatory system.  It’s all positive  spin.  And of course it’s hard to see how  it can be anything else given the nature of the organisation.

But I have two questions about government putting the onus  on industry to “educate” parents.

  1. Shouldn’t there be some requirement on a site  like “askaboutgames” to state very clearly that the information is provided by  a trade organisation not a neutral party?
  2. Shouldn’t there be some controls on the  marketing activity on trade association sites?

There is a competition run on this site where 4-15 year olds are  encouraged to give out personal information (name, parent’s e-mail) in order to  vie to become national Ambassadors.  At a  time when the advertising industry has pledged not to use children under 16 as  Brand Ambassadors this seems to be out of line with current industry thinking  on responsible marketing.  Nothing wrong  with encouraging family creativity – but state your interests and collect the information from the parents not the 4 year olds!

And in Olympic week, wouldn’t families be better off taking  their kids outside into the fresh air to play some sport  …  Despite what it says on the site, video games are a lot more sedentary   than playing football in the park.

Natural Childhood

July 3rd, 2012

Have you seen Natural Childhood written for the National Trust by leading nature writer Stephen Moss?

It presents evidence that our children are displaying “Natural Deficit Disorder” and calls for us all to try to reverse this.

In a blog for the National Trust published to-day I argue that one driver of this phenomenon is commercialism.

Brands need to make money and need to deliver a uniform, risk-free experience.

The charm, joy and value of the natural world stands as a polar opposite being free of charge to experience whilst also being constantly changing and unpredictable.

What do you think?