Government Internet Safety Strategy: balancing protection and fun

Ask About Games

The Government's Internet Safety Strategy and how we can balance protection with fun.

Today the Government published their Green Paper on their Internet Safety Strategy. It was a Conservative manifesto commitment to "make Britain is the safest place in the world to be online".

It is important to balance the needs of protecting especially vulnerable people and children online whilst also ensuring that people continue to freely take advantage of what the internet more broadly offers.

The games industry has always been good at self-regulation and has always taken its responsibility to players seriously because players are our lifeblood - and we want them to come back repeatedly. 

As the trade body for games, we sit on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and regularly talk to children's charities and other bodies responsible for protecting minors and vulnerable people. Sometimes this also involves stepping in to ensure other bodies and regulators are properly informed about game mechanics, business models, differences in genres, platforms and more.

Earlier in September we re-launched askaboutgames.com, now edited by Will Freeman, in partnership with the UK body responsible for administering the PEGI age ratings, VSC Rating Board.  It offers advice and a safe place for parents and carers to ask questions about age ratings, parental controls, and what kinds of games are age appropriate for all the family to enjoy.

We must be mindful that millions enjoy games across multiple platforms and multiple genres every day. Although most young people play games, the average age of someone who regularly plays games is mid-30s and the typical UK player is a 43-year-old woman.

Not all games are online multiplayer experiences, not all games have social features, so we must make sure that any potential measures aimed at social media services do not unnecessarily encompass all games companies. Ensuring the millions of people who play games across all age groups are having an enjoyable and safe experience is critical – which is why our industry employs community management teams, use artificial intelligence and semantic analysis, develops device level parental controls, creates terms of use, codes of conducts and other measures to protect player communities.

But games also different kinds of services and platforms to stream, promote, talk about, have fun with other fans, such as Twitch and Youtube, so some of the Green Paper questions do concern our sector more widely as cutting edge interactive entertainment.

The Green paper states its intention to commit to continue working with industry and others on:

  • further promoting awareness and understanding of Pegi age ratings, parental controls and advice on safe gaming;
  • considering what evidence there is of existing issues - including sexism - and also opportunities and thinking about issues that may emerge, particularly as new types of games (such as Augmented Reality) develop;
  • developing understanding of the various safeguards, techniques and protocols that games companies use to manage their consumers’ online game experience with a view to highlighting best practice;
  • sharing guidance and best practice for games businesses to help them ensure their consumers - particularly children - can have a safe and enjoyable online gaming experience;
  • exploring how the principles behind our social media code of practice should apply to the interactive elements of the games industry, with particular respect to reporting and take down of offensive user generated content.

It is important that we instil confidence and literacy at an early stage in education and at home so that young people can navigate the digital world which is here to stay. To that end, we are keen to include more editorial content on askaboutgames.com and explore how we can expand digital literacy lessons in the nationwide Digital Schoolhouse programme, powered by PlayStation.

The Government is now opening a consultation to the Green Paper, and we will be responding on behalf of the industry. We are keen to ensure we put forward an informed, evidence-based, representative response to the consultation so that we can demonstrate our willingness to continue to promote all the positive steps our sector already takes.

If you wish to get involved with the consultation response, please do email Tim our Head of Public Affairs

You can also stay in the loop with all our Policy activity as a Full Ukie Member by joining the Policy Sub Group. Email Tim to find out more