Anybody who researches in the area of childhood Internet use and videogaming will not have been surprised by the report co-ordinated by Dr Tanya Byron.
As someone that has been researching in this area for over 20 years, there was little in the conclusions that were reached and the recommendations made that haven’t been said many times before. This is mainly because the report was essentially a high profile literature review of what we know (and perhaps of more importance, what we don’t).
At this point I must point out a slight conflict of interest. I was one of the academic advisory board members that contributed both written and oral evidence and opinions to the final report. I also know Dr Byron and will be appearing on her new TV show talking about technological addictions.
Having said that, the report was far from ideal. One of the problems was that it was very selective in what research was read and reported. Each of the academics that contributed to the report (including myself) was asked to contribute just five of our most important must read” papers on the topic (which meant that many of my own and other researchers’ papers went completely unread by Dr Byron).
Many of the conclusions and recommendations have been suggested and/or reported in academic journals over the last decade. It’s just a shame that it took a government commissioned review to get some of these issues raised at policy level.
One of the real problems with this type of report is that most people just read the headlines and the media stories without reading the report itself.
The issues surrounding children, the Internet and videogaming are not black and white but involve many considered shades of grey. My own perception of the press coverage was that the most important message appeared to be that parents need education about videogames and the Internet. Whether the proposed UK Council for Child Internet Safety will help in this regard remains to be seen.
As a parent of three young children who love playing videogames, I know that I have an advantage in being a socially responsible parent, as I know the empirical literature in this area. Most research on the more negative effects of videogames (such as the effects of videogame violence and excessive playing) is sparse and non-conclusive. There is no proven empirical link between videogame violence and subsequent aggressive effects but that does not mean I am happy for my own kids to play violent videogames.
There is a commonsense element but parents need advice and guidance. The Government is making all the right noises about taking these issues seriously but I won’t hold my breath. However I am genuinely pleased that my research area was put on the policy agenda.