The government has today set out new measures protect children from the creeping tide of commercialisation and sexualisation in society.
Ministers welcomed progress to date in implementing the recommendations of the independent ‘Let children be children’ report by Reg Bailey, chief executive of Mothers’ Union - but said that industry still have plenty of work to do.
The Bailey review found that increasingly we live in a society full of sexualised imagery, where families don’t feel in control and children can’t be children.
It said that parents are worried about their children being exposed to inappropriate material and that although families want to take responsibility, all too often they don’t know how.
The measures announced today include:
Consulting on whether the current age-rating system should be extended to cover more music DVDs and Blu-ray discs - to protect children from inappropriate material. Most are currently exempt from the Video Recordings Acts 1984 and 2010 as are sports, religious and educational products.
Working with the music industry, online retailers and video services, to have clear warnings on explicit videos where they are shown online. Many online video services already do this, and by the end of the year, YouTube will provide the music industry with the ability to label their videos “explicit,” giving parents a straightforward way of checking whether they are going to be suitable for their children.
We are also working with the BPI (the British record industry’s trade association) and digital services:
To ensure that wherever possible parents have the option of controls that will hide videos and songs intended for an older audience.
Take forward the final stage of legislation needed so that the planned new system of age classification and labelling for videogames giving clearer age ratings and advice for parents can start in July. The new system will extend the statutory backing to cover games rated PEGI 12 as well as to those rated 16 and 18.
- Ask the Advertising Standards Authority to consider whether more should be done to spell out the commercial intent of ‘advergames’ to young people and their parents.
Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:
It’s clear that many parents are fed up with their children being surrounded by adult images as they grow up and being targeted aggressively to get the latest ‘must-have’ items.
Being a parent is a tough job at the best of times. The onus has to be on industry to stop undermining parents trying to bring up their own children, the way they want.
We’re making progress but we’re keeping the pressure up on businesses so they listen and act on parents’ concerns. It’s not acceptable for industry to simply ignore families’ worries.
Reg Bailey said:
Ending the exemptions from age classification for hard copy music videos will be an important step forward in making sure that children are not inadvertently exposed to unsuitable material. And it will send a strong signal to producers of music videos intended for online distribution or broadcast of what is acceptable if they want to reach the correct audience. This is a major concern for parents.
Parents are also concerned about some of the marketing to children through digital media, which children may not recognise as advertising and could take advantage of children’s inexperience. So I would welcome any move by the advertising industry or regulator that ensures that advertising and marketing messages are always clearly seen for what they are.
As part of the response to the Bailey review the government, advertisers and regulators have already taken a number of important steps, including:
Setting up the ParentPort website - more and more parents are using the website to give feedback, make complaints and learn more about media regulation, online safety and other aspects of the commercial world, like retailing, that have an impact on children.
Setting stricter guidelines by the Advertising Standards Authority on sexual images in outdoor advertising, particularly near schools. Introducing new guidelines preventing children aged 15 and under from being employed to act as brand ambassadors or in peer-to-peer marketing campaigns. The guidelines have been produced by the Advertising Association’s Children’s Panel and have the support of companies including Procter & Gamble, Nintendo, Facebook, Microsoft and Unilever.
- Securing the commitment from the top four Internet Service Providers (BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin) that all new customers will be asked to make an active choice over whether they want to block adult content on their home internet connection. The UK Council on Child Internet Safety has been working with the wider internet industry in the adoption of active choice across all internet enabled devices and internet access points. We will also consult industry and others about what more can be done to keep children safe online.
Notes to editors
Reg Bailey’s review and documents including ‘Let children be children are available on the Department for Education website.
UK media regulators joined forces in October 2011 to launch ParentPort, a website to help parents keep their children safe from inappropriate programmes, adverts, products and services.
The Advertising Standards Authority issued a warning statement (October 2011) on the use of sexual images in on-street advertising.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published its consultation on the exemptions from age rating that exist under the Video Recordings Act 1984 and 2010.
The government is progressing through the final stage of the legislative process toward implementation of the new video games classification and labelling system for video games in the UK that should see new system come into effect in July. The new classification system is designed with child-safety as its main priority and will, for the first time, put age ratings of all boxed computer games for 12 years and over on a statutory footing. It will ensure parents have clear, unambiguous advice on the suitability of video games for their children. Currently we have a dual system of classification for games which means that some are age rated by the BBFC and whilst all games are also rated by the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system. In future games sold in the UK will only have to be rated by PEGI. PEGI includes tough sanctions for manufacturers who flout the rules, for example by making a false declaration about a game’s content. These include fines of up to 500,000 Euros and a refusal to classify - meaning if a game does not fit within the guidelines used by PEGI, it will be refused a classification and, effectively, banned in the UK. It is our intention that the Video Standards Council will be the designated authority to award PEGI ratings in the UK. The necessary legislative framework for the new system was set up via the Digital Economy Act 2010.
Online advertising, and advergames are an increasingly popular and widespread form of advertising. Ministers are concerned that children and young people playing online may find it difficult to identify advergames as advertising, potentially putting them at greater risk of harm. The ASA covers advertising online, as well as in other media. The government would like it to consider whether the rules go far enough to ensure advertisers spell out the commercial intent of advergames.