Northamptonshire police commissioner calls for shake-up of gaming industry after report reveals impact of graphic images on children

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds
Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds
  • Study into graphic content online surveyed 13,000 children across Northamptonshire
  • One in 10 children aged 11 said they had downloaded violent war game, Call of Duty
  • Commissioner calls for new age rating on video games to alert parents
  • Video game industry “must act responsibly”, says commissioner, and Government should ban games if they do not

Children as young as five have been “deeply affected” by graphic images in video games, according to a new study by Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission.

The report showed one in four primary age school children had seen “upsetting” content online, normally graphic or sexual images. The study of 13,000 children has also revealed that 26 percent had accessed a video game they knew they were underage for and one in 10 children aged 11 said they had downloaded Call of Duty, a game known for its graphic depiction of war.

It is time for the industry to play a more proactive role in protecting young minds

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Adam Simmonds

Following the report, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner called for a shake up of the age rating of video games, calling a rating of ‘AO’ (adult only) to warn parents of extreme acts of violence and torture.

And Adam Simmonds warned that if the games industry did not act responsibly, the Government should ban certain games altogether.

Mr Simmonds said: “Controversy creates cash. However, today’s report shows that children as young as five are being subject to graphic scenes while playing video games that have left them feeling extremely upset.

“Many parents might not be fully aware that these games contain such disturbing scenes. It is time for the industry to play a more proactive role in protecting young minds.

“A new Adult Only rating alongside parental locks on consoles will better support parents in safeguarding their children. If companies fail to do this, games involving extreme violence or sexual content should be banned altogether.”

The report found:

* One in four primary school-age children have seen something online that has upset them. This is much higher for five-year-olds (42 per cent) falling to one in five children aged eight to eleven

* Online gaming is the most popular activity (84 per cent) for primary school-age children while YouTube (87%) is the main reason why young people of secondary school age are accessing the internet

* Thirty per cent of children and young people – 1782 - are viewing material online for which they are under-age, most commonly accessing games, music and television programmes

* A quarter of 11-15-year-olds and nearly half of 16-18 year olds have talked to people they have never met in person online

* 30 per cent of children and young people are viewing material online for which they are under-age, most commonly accessing games, music and television programmes

* One in 10 11-15-year-olds have been asked to send explicit images. The figure rises to one in four 16-18-year-olds

* One in four 11-15-year-olds and four in 10 16-18 year olds have sent inappropriate images or videos of themselves to people they know

* Nine out of 10 children do not want any more advice on online security. Yet a third of parents would like to know more about online safety and want their children to receive more education in the area.

Mr Simmonds said: “Online safety must now be given the same priority as road safety. We should welcome Government commitments to increase education on online safety in schools.

“However, our research shows that early intervention is needed to help educate primary schools children on the dangers and risks of accessing the internet. Teachers should be given all the help they need to achieve this.”

The Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commission conducted online surveys and held workshops for 13,000 parents and children aged between five and 18 across Northamptonshire with the aim of understanding the online safety issues, perceptions and experiences of children and young people.