Thursday, March 27, 2008

Safer Children in a Digital World

The Byron Report: Safer Children in a Digital World was released today by the United Kingdom Department for Children, Schools and Families. It is a large and fairly comprehensive report based on 'evidence' and not 'emotions' according to its author, Tanya Byron, most famous as the host of the TV parenting reality programs Little Angels; Teen Angels; House of Tiny Tearaways; Panorama; How to Improve Your Memory - with Professor Robert Winston. Dr Byron has also some heavy academic qualifications and the report Safer Children in a Digital World on the surface seems to be a very good account of the possibilities and problems associated with digital media. Some of the conclusions are:

Risks associated with online gaming
Content.Both static (commercial developers) and UGC.
Contact. Giving away personal details.
Conduct. Abusive or threatening behavior.

Benefits associated with online gaming
Rather than isolating and alienating, the report suggests that online gaming enables greater sociability.
Quote: ‘One of the reasons I enjoy playing video games online, is that I can interact with people from all over the world and make friends. Most online games have groups of players working together to complete objectives, which can improve team and leadership skills, or just for socialising while playing the game. Some of my best friends are online ones.’
Learning potential. Online gaming is an important part of the lives of many children with specific accessibility needs.

Recommendations from the report (a summary)
Creation of a single set of standards to manage the risks.
A sharing of expertise between the emerging online gaming sector and existing social networking/UGC sites.
Awareness raising, age verification, risk informing.
Player responsiblity, reporting, excessive use of management and monitoring.

The solution of monitoring for the dangers of a digital world seems to be inline with much of the discourse that is apparent at the moment when it comes to digital (read 'Internet') media. That being control by monitoring. The Byron Report, however seems to achnowledge that it is not a simple situation and there is a need for freedom on the net, it draws on some credible sources from academic circles as well as interviewing parents and young people.

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