Friday 10th October/... This was the conclusion of church and charity leaders taking part in a panel discussion hosted by The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) at BAFTA in Central London yesterday on how computer games can be a force for good in today's society.
Held at BAFTA in London's West End, the discussion, chaired by journalist Mary Riddell, included experts from children's, religious and computer and video games groups, including:
• Martin Houghton-Brown, deputy director of new business, The Children's Society
• Mike Royal, national director, The Lighthouse Group
• Joseph Steinberg, Marketing & Fund Raising Director, The Church Mission Society
• Andy Payne, chairman of ELSPA
Martin Houghton-Brown, deputy director of new business of The Children's Society, explained that children now see gaming as a normal part of everyday life. Television watching is down from 3 hours a day to 2.5 hours a day since 2001.
"We now live in a digital age where the nature of playing games has changed. Now we have online games where interaction with others is possible. Children tell us supportive and loving relationships are key to a good childhood, we need to equip parents and carers to support children to stay safe when they play in the growing online world" he said.
Andy Payne, chairman of ELSPA, addressed the issue of violent computer and video games and the potential negative effect they could have on children: “Computer games can be violent but that is why there is an age rating system, PEGI, which gives parents the information to make their own decisions.”
He went on to say that the games industry's job was “to help people understand what the ratings are there for and enable society to do its best to protect children by relying on parents to make decisions armed with the information and understanding of the ratings system.”
Mike Royal, national director of the Lighthouse Group, which helps to educate children who have been excluded from school, discussed the use of playing computer and video games to talk about 'boundaries' with young people and what behaviour is good and acceptable, not only in gaming but other aspects of life.
He also said that gaming helps to build a dialogue with parents as well as children, especially with regard to the types of games children are playing. “The PEGI system provides a framework to help us support parents and educate them about the suitability of games, as well as providing clear guidelines on whether a game is appropriate for a specific age group” he said.
While the panel agreed that computer and video games can have a positive impact, they also explained that games must be utilised in the right way to yield the best results. Parental engagement and encouragement, as well as safe and social gaming, can help children develop and protect them in an increasingly online environment.
A podcast of the roundtable event is available at the ELSPA website: http://www.elspa.com/?i=7715&s=1111&archive=&f=50
Background to Byron Consultation:
In September 2007 the Prime Minster asked Dr Tanya Byron, a clinical psychologist and mother of two to lead an independent review into children and new technology. Byron set out an ambitious action plan for Government, industry and families to work together to support children's safety online and to reduce access to adult video games. Her report was issued in March 2008. The Consultation period for the Byron Review will end on November 20th.
The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established in 2003 to help European parents make informed decisions on buying interactive games. Designed to ensure that minors are not exposed to games that are unsuitable for their particular age group, the system is supported by the major console manufacturers, including PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo, as well as by publishers and developers of interactive games throughout Europe. The age rating system has been developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and has the enthusiastic support of the European Commission, who considers the new system to be a model of European harmonisation in the field of protection of children.
PEGI applies to products distributed in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association Ltd was founded in 1989 to establish a specific and collective identity for the interactive leisure software industry. Membership includes almost all companies concerned with the publishing and distribution of interactive leisure software in the UK.As a gateway to Europe, ELSPA works to protect, promote and provide for the interests of all its members, as well as addressing issues that affect the industry as a whole.EDITOR NOTES:
About ELSPA - http://www.elspa.com
ELSPA (The Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) was founded in 1989 to establish a specific and collective identity for the computer and video games industry. Membership includes almost all companies concerned with the publishing and distribution of interactive leisure software in the UK.
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