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New review helps children and parents get the best from new technologies, while protecting them from harmful images

New review helps children and parents get the best from new technologies, while protecting them from harmful images

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES News Release (2007/0158) issued by The Government News Network on 6 September 2007

Parents will be able to help their kids make the most of exciting new technologies, while protecting them from harmful and inappropriate imagery, thanks to a new Review announced today as part of the Government's new 10 year Children's Plan.

The Review was announced today by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools, and Families, Ed Balls, and Culture Secretary, James Purnell. The Prime Minister and Ed Balls discussed this issue with parents, teachers and children at the launch of the Children's Plan consultation event today at Bristol Brunel Academy. Their views will be fed through into this review.

The review will be led by clinical psychologist and mother of two Dr Tanya Byron, well known for her clinical work with children and families and also her television programmes about child behaviour (The House of Tiny Tearaways, and Little Angels, BBC TV). She will draw on advice from industry experts and will engage a wide range of industry and regulatory bodies. It will be jointly sponsored by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls said:

"Children and young people have faster, easier and more immediate access to online information than ever before. More and more children and young people have mobile phones and play video games in their spare time.

"These technologies bring our children new, fantastic opportunities and lots of fun but we need to balance this with the risks and worries that parents have of their children accessing inappropriate content.

"This Review is not about stopping children having fun or preventing them from taking full advantage of the educational, social and entertainment benefits that the internet and video games technologies offer. But it is about making sure they can do so safely, as far as possible, without being exposed to harmful or inappropriate material."

"I want children to enjoy new media without their childhood being harmed."
Culture Secretary James Purnell said:
"Many parents are worried about what their children may be accessing online. We want to work with them and the industry to see what more could be done to give parents the tools and advice they need."

"We already have protections in place for broadcasters and video but the development of the internet has brought new challenges. It is right that we keep pace with these changes."

Dr Tanya Byron, chair of the Review said:

"The internet is a powerful and positive tool for children in terms of their learning and ongoing development. However, we must all enable our children to use the possibility presented by the internet in a way that is both positive and safe. Therefore it is essential that parents and anyone involved in the care and development of young people are familiar with the material they will access and view and of the potential and actual risks therein."

The objectives of the Review are:

To undertake a review of the evidence on risks to children's safety and wellbeing of exposure to harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games

To assess the effectiveness and adequacy of existing measures to help prevent children from being exposed to such material and help parents understand and manage the risks of access to inappropriate content, and to make recommendations for improvements or additional action.

Questions on the issue will be asked at the first Citizen's Jury on children's services and education in Bristol Brunel Academy today. This will be attended by the Prime Minister and Ed Balls. The views of children, parents and the professionals who work with them on this will be taken forward in the Department for Children, Schools and Families' 10 year Children's Plan.

The Review will:

- conduct an initial scoping of relevant activities with a view to focusing on helping parents to protect their children from potentially harmful and inappropriate material on the internet and in video games, in order to complement other activity underway;

- examine the effectiveness of existing regulatory and other mechanisms, taking account of EU and other relevant provisions, governing the availability of, and access to, illegal and inappropriate material, including user-generated content;

- commission a literature review and analysis of current evidence on the effects of exposure to such material on children's wellbeing and behaviour;

- review, with parents, the issues of most concern to them and their understanding of the risks posed by technologies and how to manage them;

- ask children and young people about their experience of using the internet and video games technologies and find out what they see as the key benefits and what their concerns are;

- explore with industry what more can be done to support parents in protecting their children; and

- make recommendations on further action or improvements needed in regulation, education and communications about the use of technologies, advertising or other areas.

The Review will complement other activity both underway and planned to tackle other aspects of internet safety such as online grooming, the creation and distribution of abusive images of children and cyberbullying. The responses to the Review will also feed into the cross Government action plan on the recently published Staying Safe strategy.

The Review will NOT cover television content, as there is already effective statutory regulation in this area. Neither online grooming nor the creation and distribution of abusive images of children are included as these are already covered in the safeguarding strategy consultation.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Biography for Dr Tanya Byron

Tanya did her first degree in psychology at York, her clinical psychology Masters training at UCL and her doctorate (on the treatment of cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy misusers) between University College Hospital and Surrey. She has been working in the NHS for 16 years working in Drug Dependency, HIV/AIDS and sexual health, adult mental health and eating disorders services. She was the Consultant of an in patient unit for 12 - 16 year olds with severe mental health problems and child protection issues. Tanya now works one clinical day a week as a Consultant in child and adolescent mental health.

In addition Tanya writes a weekly column for the Times newspaper and for several women's magazines.

Predominantly Tanya works at the BBC presenting programmes on child behaviour, science and current affairs (Little Angels; Teen Angels; House of Tiny Tearaways; Panorama; How to Improve Your Memory - with Professor Robert Winston). Tanya is currently filming four one hour documentaries for BBC2 looking at: Sex; Death; Vanity and Spirituality. Next year she will be filming a series on child behaviour in America. Also, after appearing in last years French & Saunders Christmas Special, Tanya is now writing a comedy series about a daytime chat show host (The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle) with Jennifer Saunders.

Tanya has published two books on child behaviour and is currently writing a third published by Penguin and editing an encyclopedia of child development and the early years with Dorling Kindersley. Tanya jointly owns and runs a production company with her business partner and best friend of 34 years, the producer and agent Sam Richards - their company manages Tanya's broadcast career and also produces a number of other programmes for the BBC and other channels.

2. In June 2006, 68% of homes had internet access, and by January 2007, 100% of schools.

3. Games which feature gross violence and/or sexual material are subject to the Video Recordings Act and must be submitted to the British Board of Film Classification. They are considered against a set of guidelines (details available at http://www.bbfc.co.uk) and given a legally binding age-related classification.
All other games are covered the voluntary Pan-European Games Information system which aims to provide parents with information allowing them to make choices for their children.

4. This review will be led jointly by DCSF and DCMS (with close involvement of BERR and Home Office) and will report to the two Secretaries of State. It will require engagement with, and consultation of, a range of stakeholders including:

Cabinet Office
Home Secretary's Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
Ofcom
Becta
British Board of Film Classification
Children's Charities Coalition for Internet Safety
Internet Watch Foundation
Childnet International
Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA)
Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA)
Tiga (games software developer trade body)
Advertising Standards Association
Advertising Association
Retail industry representatives e.g. Virgin, HMV, Game, Amazon
British Standards Institute
Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS)
Broadband Stakeholders Group
Get Safe Online
parents and parents' organisations
children and young people

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