Have you ever noticed the little blue triangle on the cover of a video game sold in South Africa?
Well, that triangle contains the age rating as set by the Film and Publication Board (FPB). Its purpose is to provide parents with an easy to way determine if the game is suitable for their children or not.
But the problem, according to the FPB, is that parents aren’t aware of it, and that parents don’t know about the harm that video games can do if they’re played by young children.
“Awareness of age-restricted games is limited to gaming parents (parents who play games), and most people do play 18+ rated games – even some as young as 10 years of age,” said Dr Antoinette Basson, a Research Psychologist with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa.
Basson, together with the FPB and Unisa, collaborated to publish a report called ‘The Impact of Media Content on Children in South Africa’.
For the study, Unisa interviewed a number of children in different age groups to determine what games they play.
While the 7 – 9 year old group was fairly tame with games like Candy Crush and Need for Speed being the most popular (despite those games having an 16+ age rating). However, the games played by the children in the 10 – 11 year age group are far more worrying.
Here the games played by the age group include Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and God of War – all rated as 18+. This trend continues through the 12 – 13, 14 – 15 and 16 – 17 year age group.
“A lot of people have said that games don’t have an impact on them (children), as they think it is simply animated. They are of the opinion that you are not shooting real people. In actual fact, in the study we found that to be the opposite,” Basson said.
“Younger participants felt like hurting someone who was irritating or not kind to them, make a person scared of you after playing a certain game. This clearly illustrates the effect of gaming on thoughts and behaviour of children in this age group.”
With that said, Dr Basson was quick to add that the study only focused on the negative impact on children who play games outside of their age group, and nowhere in the study does it say that videogames are inherently bad for children.
She also noted that education about age restrictions on games needs to start at home, and that parents should be more aware of what their children are playing.
“Further exploration revealed that most parents are not aware of the age restrictions for games or lack adequate information regarding the age restrictions and classification guidelines for games and therefore, do not inform their children about it,” she said. “In some instances, parents who are aware of the age restrictions make their children aware of it and influence their decision to play an age inappropriate game.”
[Image – CC by 2.0/sean dreilinger]